One Ounce of Joy
Is there any greater joy in the world than when you see somebody crying, and you give them life, you give them one ounce of joy, you give them one ounce of hope.
Rebbe Nachman says, the greatest crime is to take away somebody’s self confidence, to take away somebody’s hope.
And the greatest, greatest thing in the world is, if you can give it to somebody. Because the only way of getting into heaven, basically, is by giving it to somebody else. And that kind of joy which comes from heaven, is only given to you at that moment when you give it to somebody else.
You know, it says, “sisu et Yerushalayim [give joy to Jerusalem].” How do you get joy? By giving joy to Yerushalayim [Jerusalem]. Yerushalayim is that place in our hearts, in the world, which is destroyed. And if you rebuild it a little bit, gevalt, is that good.
A fair exchange
Sweetest friends, believe me… and I am sure you know it anyway; but people who don’t believe in G-d don’t have joy. They have fun. But joy? No.
I once was sitting with some Communists in Belgium; They were members of Shomer Tsair, Jewish young people, real Communists. I was sitting with them, and I said to them, “OK, you know what? Let’s exchange religions. I will be a Communist, and you will be, so to speak, frum [religious]. But it has to be a fair exchange. Look what I am giving you. I am giving you Shabbos, Pesach, Shavuos, Sukkot. I am giving you joy. I am giving you heaven to the utmost. What can you give me back for an exchange? Do you have any holiday? Do you have one Shabbos in your life? Do you have one ray of hope, one ray of beauty? You are gloomy people, right? So it is not a fair exchange. So I will stick to mine.”
Anyway, it got through to them.
One of the most important aspects of Rosh HaShanah is not to say bad things about another person. As you want G-d to give you a chance, also give everyone else a chance to begin again.
So, my dearest brothers and sisters, it’s only after Rosh HaShanah when our beginning is so strong, when we get a taste that our inside has never been blemished, and we go to the Holy Cleaner, the Master of the World, who takes out all the stains from our hearts and the dust from our souls. And He is doing it while we are singing and dancing. On Yom Kippur, we tell Him all our mistakes because we now already have so much inner strength.
Please, please, give each other strength. Don’t ever stop giving compliments to each other, and, most of all, give compliments to your children, whose self confidence depends on you! On Rosh HaShanah, every second counts like a thousand years.
Our holy master Rebbe Nachman says: The greatest gift we can give someone is to give him back his self confidence.
When we make a mistake, not only do we do wrong, but our soul also is shriveling, and we look down at ourselves. A whole year of mistakes – Gevalt! How do we look at ourselves? It doesn’t take much to give up on somebody else, but to give up on ourselves is always Federal Express.
To have the guts to really begin again takes a lot of inner strength. So on Rosh HaShanah, the holiest day of beginnings, we don’t mention our mistakes, in order to have the strength to stand before G-d like newborn babies. Our holy Rabbis teach us that the sound of the shofar is the sound of our innermost soul and heart and also the sound of a newborn baby. It is everything. It wakes us up, it gives us strength, it reminds us how holy we are, and how holy we can be, and also how close we are and how easy it is to be the best and most exalted.
Blessings and love,
Learn How to Get Up
Rebbe Nachman’s holy mother was named Feigele. She was called Feigele hanevia, Feigele the prophetess. She had clear vision from one corner of the world to the other. And she was the daughter of Udele, aish das lamo, the daughter of the Heilege Holy Bal Shem Tov himself.
The Mezritche Maggid said, “Until Mashiach is coming, when one Yid [Jew] will give just one krechts [crying out to G-d], it is all because of the Bal Shem Tov.”
But Rebbe Nachman: Zeh mesechta bifnei atsmo [but Rebbe Nachman is a whole tractate himself].
Basically this teaching of Rebbe Nachman is two things:
1) How much would you give not to stop breathing? Billions of times more, you have to give everything, not to ever, G-d forbid, not to ever stop being b’simcha [filled with joy]. Because if you are not b’simcha, if you are not filled with joy, you are dead, a thousand times a second.
2) And then he says, don’t ever give up. Don’t ever, ever give up.
The heilege zeise [holy sweet] Rebbe Nachman, the heilege Rebbe, the Rebbe of all the Rebbes, the tzadik of all the tzadikim, this is what he said:
If you ever, ever want to be a servant of the One, of the Only One, you have to learn three lessons. You have to know these three things before you begin serving G-d.
The first thing is: You have to learn how to walk. You have to learn how to stand… You have to learn how to walk, and you have to learn how to stand.
When you are praying, when you daven, you stand before the One, before the Only One.
When you are doing mitzvas, when you do something good, you are walking… you are walking… you are walking in His ways.
But only those who know how to stand, know how to walk.
And those who know how to walk, they also know how to stand.
Learn how to walk… learn how to stand… learn how to walk… learn how to stand….
That is the first torah teaching. The second teaching is:
Learn how to fall… learn how to fall… learn how to fall and to get up.
The second teaching is a little bit harder. Learn how to fall… learn how to fall, and to get up.
So when you are falling, let your heart be filled with great joy, because G-d is teaching you how to get up. Because if you wouldn’t fall, you’d never learn how to get up.
When you are falling, let your heart be filled with joy, because the One, the Only One, is teaching you how to get up.
You hear, my friends…. Learn how to walk, learn how to stand. Learn how to fall, and to get up.
Now comes the third teaching: this is hard. Open up your hearts. What do you do when you are falling, and you can’t get up? What do you do when you are falling, and you don’t stop falling? When you are falling, you are falling, you are falling, and you are still falling. What do you do when you are falling and falling and falling? What do you do when you are falling and nobody holds your hand, nobody is helping you, and you can’t get up?
So this is what the heilege tzadik Rebbe Nachman says: In the meantime, keep on walking, in the meantime keep on standing… in the meantime keep on standing, in the meantime keep on walking. In the meantime let your heart be filled with joy. In the meantime keep on singing, keep on dancing. Until one day, until one day, one day, one day, it will be revealed to you that you never fell, that you never fell, because how is it possible to fall when the One, the Only One, is holding you so close.
On Yom Kippur I am standing before G-d, and I say, “Master of the world, forgive me, I am falling, I was falling so much.” Then, when I am sitting in the sukkah, betsilo demehemnusa, betsilo DeKudsha Brich Hu [sheltered in the shade of G-d], and I realize that I never fell, because the Rebono Shel Olam, His light surrounds me all the time, and is holding me, a Jew can never fall.
Learn how to walk, learn how to stand. Learn how to fall and to get up. Learn how to fall and to know that a Jew can never fall.
On Sukkot we bring seventy sacrifices for the whole world. If I would ask you, “Do you really think that one day, Mashiach is coming, and the whole world will be fixed?” So you will tell me, “Nah, I can’t believe it. Listen to the radio, look at the newspaper. You are wrong.”
Let me ask you, four weeks ago, did you think you would be so holy? Ahh, the Rebono Shel Olam opened gates for you. And suddenly you are so pure and so holy. Maybe G-d will open gates for the whole world, for G-d’s world. G-d created them.
So on Sukkot, we say, “Master of the world, letaken olam bemalchus shin daled yud. Master of the world, let me have a hand in fixing the whole world.”
“Veyetayu kol leavdecha, vevarchu shem kevodecha, veyagidu roim tzidkecha, veyitnu lecha keter melucha.”
Why is it that I can eat matza, but nobody comes running after me hungry to eat matza too, but when I place my menora by my window, and kindle all the heavenly lights, all the Yidden that pass by my window feel the deepest hunger inside their hearts? It is because, as Rebbe Nachman teaches, Hanukah is a light that burns from the inside out, not from the outside in.
I once met this homeopathic doctor, and he told me the difference between a medical doctor and a homeopathic doctor. A regular doctor works from the outside to the inside, but the homeopathic doctor begins with the inside and then goes out.
This, my beautiful friends, is how the Bal Shem Tov wanted to heal the world. He said that it’s no longer enough to begin studying Torah from the outside in, when Yidden are becoming sick all over the place. Now the world needs to begin studying the Torah from the inside out.
Do you realize that it’s possible for people who are ‘officially religious’ to keep the entire Torah, and still not have the faintest idea of what Yiddishkeit is all about? These are the people who keep Shabbos, and yet have still never even tasted what it’s all about.
On Hanukah, we must begin to see the outside world, and to see our holy Torah, through that inside light that is burning inside all of us.
Why is it that one person can feel the light of Hanukah, but another person, is sill feeling so cold? Nebech, gevalt, right?
I was once at the home of a certain so called ‘great’ Rabbi. He had a phone in his hand. And so, while he was talking to somebody, his wife brought in the menorah, and, while putting the person on hold, he made the bracha. As soon as everybody answered “amen,” he got back on the phone and ignored the light and ignored his family. So maybe this Rabbi will go to paradise one day because he did all the mitzvas. But, gevalt, it’s the paradise down here that he’s missing.
I want you to listen to this, it’s so beautiful. My brother Michael and I are best friends. Imagine that we have a very big fight. So I go to him and ask, “Can you please forgive me?” and he says, “Yeah, I forgive you.” But you know, it’s no longer the same between us anymore. There is something still missing. You know what’s missing? The light between us is missing. There is forgiveness, but there is no more light left between us.
Rebbe Nachman teaches that on Yom Kippur G-d forgives us, but it’s not until Hanukah that G-d gives us back the light. So on Hanukah, the light is back between us – and the light is so deep, so intimate.
Hanukah is the holiday of Aaron HaCohen, the High Priest. On Yom Kippur, the High Priest would walk into the Holy of Holies to ask for G-d’s forgiveness. But why do we need a High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, if Moshe Rabbenu already came back from Heaven bringing us the Two Tablets as a sign of G-d’s forgiveness? Do I need more than forgiveness?
Ah, gevalt: we need so much more than forgiveness. We need intimacy. We need to be so much closer to G-d than forgiveness can bring us.
So Aaron HaCohen didn’t go into the Holy of Holies to ask for our forgiveness. He went in after we were already forgiven. Instead, he went into the Holy of Holies to bring down the light of intimacy for his people.
The difference between holy things and ordinary things is very simple. You do not long for ordinary things once you have them. You have them, and the longing is fulfilled. But when it comes to holy things, even if you have them, you still long for them very much. I have Shabbos every week, but how much of it do I really have? How do I know if I truly have the holy Shabbos? You only have the holy Shabbos if you are longing for it all of the time.
On Hanukah it is fire rather than water that we celebrate. Because, like fire, we are mamash longing for something so holy and exalted.
“Ohr Haganuz,” the Hidden Light of Hanukah
Every person has two functions. One function is of ‘me and the world,’ and the other is ‘me and me’ and ‘me and G-d.’
There are two kinds of relationships between people. There is you and me in the world, and then there is just you and me without the world. This is beyond the world, deeper than the world.
How do you know how much you love a person? Are you aware of the world when you are talking to them? If there is still a world, sure you are close, but real true closeness is when suddenly the world stops.
Rebbe Nachman says that, when I daven [pray], there is me and the world and G-d. But then, slowly, as I continue to daven even more, there is just me and G-d. Then I go higher and higher; I stop to exist. There is only G-d. The deepest secret is, how do I keep it all together.
You know what happens when people go to shul [synagogue] on Yom Kippur? Why doesn’t the effect last even five minutes after Yom Kippur is over? Because on Yom Kippur, when I’m so close to G-d, it is just me and G-d, but the minute there is a world, G-d disappears. Let’s say I love my wife very much when I am with her. But then I walk out onto the street, and already I forget that she exists.
How do you get it all together?
How do you get it all together? Here I want you to know something. The Greeks offer us a beautiful world, but that’s all. Yiddishkeit basically offers us a world; there is only one G-d. There is just me and G-d. So I want you to know something – we lost our children because children want the world. Sure they want to think sometimes that there is no world, just you and me, you and G-d. But where is the beautiful world?
So on Hanukah, the Hashmonaim really got it together. They brought in Hanukah lights. Everybody knows Hanukah is mehadrin min hamehadrin, beautiful and more beautiful, and we kindle lights in the house. The house is a place where I’m just alone, where I’m alone with my children. I’m kindling lights by the door and I’m shining into the world. Because the real truth is, the world doesn’t tear you away from G-d or from the Torah.
The time for Hanukah lights is at night. Basically, the night is a time when people can get so close, because during the night the world doesn’t exist so much. Though there is still a world.
A hidden light
The Hashmonaim say, “Gevalt, Master of the world, let me kindle the Hanukah lights!” Do you know what is so special about the lights? You are able to see them, and yet it is “Ohr Haganuz,” a hidden light that you know is not an ordinary light or just a candle burning. It is full of secrets, full of mystery, full of the deepest depths. It means that even while I see something, I’m always aware that there is something deeper, so much deeper, the part where the world doesn’t reach.
When I love someone very much, I see them, they are there, but I also know there is so much more.
Mother and children
The Torah says about our Mother Sarah, “hinei beohel [behold, she is in the tent].” The mother fixes for her children their relationship to G-d without the world. There is something between a mother and her children that is so close that it has nothing to do with the world. The father is supposed to give over to his children how to believe in G-d while in the world.
Everybody knows that the woman is the house, as it says about Sarah, “hinei beohel [behold, she is in the tent / the woman represents the house].” Therefore, on Hanukah, the deepest fixing is “ish ubeiso,” a man and his house – mamash, the husband and wife together. It is the world and yet it is without the world, beyond the world.
Can’t take your eyes off it
It is so beautiful that you can’t take your eyes off of it, and yet you know that you don’t really see it because it is so much deeper, and the deepest depths is that all your children are also kindling lights.
You don’t have to make sure that your little boy of seven puts on tefillin, but your little boy, as well as your little girl of five – are both kindling Hanukah lights. Because though perhaps what you see is seven years old, but the part you can’t see is ancient, eternal, forever, beyond time and space. On Hanukah you put it all together because you are truly close to your children when you know that what you see is only a small part of what they really are.
You know the Greeks say, “The world is only what you see.” On Hanukah, we say, “Yes, we see a world, it is beautiful, but gevalt there is so much more!”
Our Holy Sages teach us, “We are not permitted to make any use of them [the candles] except watching them.” We look at the lights and see everything nobody sees.
You know, friends, Israel is the same way. Everybody knows that on Hanukah we fix our eyes. We fix the sin of the ten spies [who were sent by Moses to the Holy Land]. Because what was wrong there? The spies looked at Israel and saw only what they saw. They didn’t see that which can’t be seen. But when you see what you can’t see, then you look again and you see a different world. And everybody knows that on Hanukah, when you kindle the lights, suddenly, every house becomes a different world. Suddenly every house is Israel, every house is the Holy Temple, and every child that kindles the lights is the High Priest. Good Yom Tov.
Purim and Holy Pride
On Purim, suddenly the whole world is filled with the way the world was before G-d created the world. On Purim, a great light is shining from such a high place, higher and deeper than all the other holidays in the world.
Rebbe Nachman says something very deep. The world knows of either humility or pride. The truth is you need both, but you have to know when to use them.
Even anger is a very holy thing if you know when to use it. All the emotions in the world are very holy, because G-d gave them to you. You just have to know when to use them.
So the world thinks, “Either you’ll be a shmendrik – you are always humble – or you are always arrogant.” But both are wrong.
On Purim we get so high that we don’t know the difference between Haman and Mordechai. This means we don’t know the difference between arrogance and humility, because both are holy. On Purim we are on the level that we know exactly when to be humble and when to be proud.
The truth is, to be a servant of G-d, you need a lot of pride.
Rebbe Nachman says, even to pray to G-d takes a lot of pride. That means I am standing before G-d and I am demanding, “Please G-d, listen to me!” This takes a lot of pride, but this is holy pride.
Then you must have holy humility. Not shmendrik humility. Not stupid, senseless humility, which is what we mostly have. You must have holy humility.
The people who have holy humility are the strongest people in the world.
If you know exactly where to use your humility, then you know exactly where to use your pride.
Rebbe Nachman says, you have 50 units of humility and 50 units of pride. If you use up your pride in the wrong place, then it is used up. You have a certain amount of soul strength to be proud, and a certain amount of soul strength to be humble. For example, if I have 50 cents, if I use it up on the wrong thing, then when it comes time to buy the real thing, I won’t have it.
On Purim, this great thing is shining so that we know exactly when pride stops being evil, and when humility stops being out of reach. Everything is holy on Purim, because I know exactly when to be humble and when to be proud.
The greatest evil in the world is sadness.
Why is the world not becoming better? Or, why am I, as an individual, not becoming better? Because I am filled with sadness.
Maybe I am sad because of something I did yesterday, or maybe I am sad because of what I want to do tomorrow. It doesn’t really matter. In the meantime, I am filled with sadness, and this is the greatest evil in the world.
All the secular teachings of the world, do they fill you with joy or with sadness? Do you ever see kids walking out of secular school saying, “Gevalt, what I’m learning!” It doesn’t turn them on. Secular learning doesn’t put joy into your heart. All the teachings of Amalek, all the teachings of evil, fill you with sadness.
Rebbe Nachman teaches very strongly that just as there are holy good manners, there is also such a thing as good manners that have their roots in the evil of the world: Good manners with absolutely no meaning. The Germans, when they sent the Jews to the gas chambers, would say “bitte, please.” So they think these are good manners? It has absolutely no meaning. A murderer says, “Please step over here, I want to knock your head off.” Why does he pretend to be civilized? So there are good manners whose roots are in the evil of the world, and then there are real, holy manners. When someone walks through the door I might say, “I’m glad to see you” because of good manners, but it has no meaning, or I can say it because I really mean it.
On Purim, we get drunk. According to good manners you shouldn’t get drunk, but what kind of manners are they?
It depends on what level we are when drunk… On Purim we are holy drunk, really holy. On Purim, if you are not on the highest level, you really have no right to drink, but… I have really been privileged to see people really high, holy high, on Purim. In Bobov, the Rebbe sits there and he drinks mamash one glass of wine after the other. Mamash high. I mean, not drunk, but so high! Gevalt!
On Purim we break down all the good manners of the world. We are real. And if you are real, you can be drunk and still be real, still be holy. And if you are on the level of evil manners, you can be sober, not drunk at all, and give a speech in Madison Square Gardens and say the most obnoxious things in the world. So therefore, on Purim we are breaking down all the levels of manners, and we are drunk, but we are just on the highest level.
A holy drunkard sees only One
What is the difference between non-holy drunk and holy drunk? A non-holy drunkard, if he sees ten people, he says he sees a hundred; if he sees a million, he says he sees ten million. A holy drunkard sees only One; nothing else.
The war between good and evil
There is a great war going on, the war between good and evil. One day a year we don’t fight evil. One day a year there is no evil in the world. One day a year we reach the level of after the war. This is on Purim.
You have to know that only the people who are taking part in the war all year long can know what Purim is. If you don’t fight evil all year long, but then on Purim you suddenly say, “I want to jump into Purim,” what do you understand? If evil looks good to you, you have nothing to celebrate. On Purim we celebrate that there is no evil. But if you like evil, then you have no part in it.
So how do you fight evil? It says, “Remember what Amalek did to you….” You have to remember that there is evil in the world. You have to remember. So the question is, do you remember or do you forget. Imagine, yesterday I was bad, so I mamash promised myself that I’ll be good. The next morning it is already forgotten; I forgot my promise, I forgot how bad I felt when I did wrong. If I would only remember a little bit. Purim is the great holiday of the people who remember. They are the ones who are fighting this great war against evil. They really do remember.
G-d’s love is beyond our minds
There are two kinds of love that G-d has for us. One kind of love is kind of contracted. Let’s say, for example, that I like someone because he does everything I tell him to do. Or, on the other hand, I can like someone not because he does everything I want him to do, but, even if he doesn’t do everything I want, I just love him anyway.
On Yom Kippur, G-d is loving us because we say, “G-d, we did wrong, we want to be better, we confess, we promise we’ll be good, we’ll do everything you tell us to do.” This is very sweet and holy, but it is not the ultimate.
On Purim, G-d is shining His great love into us, His great love that has nothing to do with our doing His will. He just loves us. Like, “I don’t care what you do, I still love you. I do care, what you do, but My love is beyond that.” And this is beyond our minds.
Therefore we have to be drunk on Purim, because we have to reach that thing which is beyond our minds. We have to be beyond our own mind.
G-d’s great love that is flowing down on Purim is not because we did right. It is just because He loves us. This is beyond… beyond every understanding.
Evil can only reach the level of love where we talk about doing G-d’s will, so evil can make us not do G-d’s will. That light comes from a place where evil can reach. But evil cannot reach that great love that is above and beyond that level, His love that has nothing to do with doing G-d’s will.
On Purim this greater love is becoming so strong in the world that there is no evil. There is nothing between us and G-d. Nothing. I can be a drunkard, I can be the most obnoxious person in the world, but who cares? Gevalt.
Why is it that when you are drunk you can’t stand on your feet, you can’t walk? There is a level that your service of G-d is standing before G-d, and walking in G-d’s ways. But then there is another level, that even if you are not walking, and even if you can’t stand, you’re still serving G-d in a crazy way that is even deeper. On Purim we reach that high level that we can’t stand, we can’t walk, but we are still the greatest servants of G-d.
What happens when you are drunk? You get a strange kind of imagination. What is really the greatest thing in the world? The holiest faculty that G-d has given us is imagination. Holy imagination. It depends where your imagination is. On Purim we get drunk and we mamash imagine the holiest things in the world. You know what we imagine? We imagine that there is no evil in the world. This is the holiest level a drunkard can reach.
If I am completely drunk and someone tells me, “You know, there is evil in the world,” I say, “Evil? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Not only do I imagine it, the feeling is so strong that I mamash believe it. This is the holiest imagination anybody can reach.
This is the way I see it.
In former good days, on Purim everybody got dressed up like somebody else. Boys would get dressed up like girls, girls like men. Jews would get dressed up like Indians, like Eskimos, like anything. Rebbe Nachman says something very deep. He says, “Why is there no peace in the world? Because I always think that I am the only one in the world. Only the way I am is right. Men think the only way to be is a man, women think the only way to be is a woman. A Jew thinks the only way to be is a Jew. So on Purim we get dressed up like somebody else. Because I say, ‘Maybe this is also good. This is really very beautiful.’ So, therefore, Purim is the holiest because there is no evil in the world, so why not get dressed up like someone else?
Aware of G-d
The hardest time to be aware of G-d is when you eat. Usually, when people eat, they are so much aware of themselves because they are feeding their bodies. It is hard to be aware of G-d when you pray, but it is not that hard. It is really hard when you eat and drink. It’s the hardest thing in the world. The more you eat, the less you are aware of G-d. The more you drink, the less you are aware of G-d. On Purim we reach that high level where we eat all day long, we drink all day long, and the way we understand G-d on that day is like never, never before. We understand G-d on the deepest, deepest, highest level. On Purim, the way we understand that there is one G-d is like we don’t understand it all year long: It comes from such a high place. And the way we know what we are doing in this world comes from such a high place. The highest place in the world. And this is not by studying, not even by talking, But by eating, by drinking, and by giving gifts to one another.
We have to give gifts to one another, we have to give charity on Purim.
And maybe we also get dressed up like someone else, because it is from a completely different place.
On no other day is the great light shining that we mamash so much want to get close to G-d again. Not only do we want to do G-d’s will, not only do we want to do what is right, not only do we want to fulfill our mission in life – one day a year, mamash we just want to be so very close to G-d. And if we want to be close to G-d, we can eat and drink too. We can be half drunk, and eat all day long – it doesn’t matter. If mamash our heart is burning up, that we just want to be close to G-d, then whatever we do is on the holiest level in the world.
Tremendous light is coming down when I want to be close, when people want to be close to each other, when I want to be close to G-d.
The greatest evil in the world is that we keep away from each other. But on Purim, the great light is shining so that everything is close.
Evil is always new. Imagine, if you do something wrong, you swear to yourself you’ll never do it again, right? So how come evil comes to you again the next day? The answer is very simple. Evil is really new all the time. Evil has a newness. How do we fight evil? With even more newness! With the utmost newness in the world. On Purim, G-d gives us this tremendous holy newness, mamash the ability to really start all over again. On Yom Kippur, holy as we are, we still talk about what we did yesterday. So it’s still not completely new. On Purim, we don’t talk about what happened yesterday. We don’t even talk about what will happen tomorrow. We are just here.
Why aren’t we the kind of Yiddelach [Jews] that we ought to be? Because we have this evil that comes to us and says, “It is another world now. Okay, when Moses stood on Mt. Sinai it was very sweet, but now it’s another world.” So evil wants to cut us off from G-d, because of the newness of the world.
The greatest miracle is that everything is new [that there are constantly new inventions], that so many new things are happening. Evil wants to utilize this holy newness against G-d. The most beautiful thing in the world is that the world is always new, that new things are always happening. Evil wants to take this newness and use it to tear us away from G-d. Purim is the day when we take all this newness and we say, “Because of this newness, I want to be a servant of G-d.”
Hold on just a little bit longer
Why am I a little bit bad? Because, nebech, I wanted to be good at one time or another. So I started praying so hard, and it looked to me as if G-d didn’t care; He didn’t answer my prayer. I had tried so hard. For years, I try to be better and it does not work. The greatest thing is that, on Purim, I suddenly realize it isn’t true; I was becoming better. G-d heard every prayer. On Purim I realize that I am so close to G-d, I know He was listening all the time. Imagine, I talk to someone on the telephone and I think the other person hung up. Then I realize I wasn’t even talking on the telephone, I was talking to him in person. He was actually standing right next to me the entire time.
We were supposed to be in exile for seventy years after the destruction of the First Temple. Crazily enough, we didn’t know when the seventy years began. We thought that the seventy years began with the year when we didn’t have a king anymore, the year when our king was taken into captivity – and so we thought that the seventy years were supposed to be over. So Achashverosh comes and tells us, “The prophecies aren’t true; you were supposed to leave after seventy years, and the seventy years are over.” But the truth was, the seventy years only began with the destruction of the Holy Temple. The story of Purim only took place in the sixty-ninth year. So this is the story – Amalek always comes to you and says to you, “Don’t you see, the prophets told you something, G-d told you something, and He didn’t keep His promise.” But on Purim we realize, “It’s not true. G-d keeps his promise, all the prophesies are true, G-d hears me, G-d knows me. I am on the way, I just have to hold out a little bit longer.’ So Purim gives me the strength to hold on just a little bit longer.”
Maybe this is the way G-d is talking to you
Purim was initiated by Mordechai and Esther. Two people. A lot of people say, “If I would hear this directly from G-d, I would believe in it, but if I hear it from somebody else, I don’t want to believe in it.” This is an evil trick. Because how do you want G-d to talk to you? Maybe this is the way G-d is talking to you. You can walk on the street and someone says something to you. Don’t say, “No, I want to hear it directly from G-d.” This is G-d telling it to you!
Remember the story about Elijah the Prophet? A man is waiting for Elijah the Prophet, and a beggar knocks on his door. The man says, “No, I can’t talk to you now. I don’t have time for any beggars, I am waiting for Elijah the Prophet.” And so he sends the poor man away. This poor man was actually Elijah the Prophet in disguise.
The evil of the world is that we always say, “If G-d would tell me to make peace in the world, I would do it, but if only people talk to me about doing it, I won’t.” This is G-d’s word – G-d is talking to you!
The holiness of Purim is that this is the first holiday that was initiated by two little Yiddelach [Jew] – Mordechai and Esther. We believe them. We know this is G-d talking to us. The moment we listen to other people, and we know that G-d is talking to us through them, then there is so much love in the air.
There is so much fighting in the air because I always think that when someone is talking to me, he is the one talking to me, and I don’t want to listen to him. If I would mamash believe that in every word I hear, everybody is just giving me a message from G-d, then there would be no evil anymore. So Purim is the great holiday when mamash we listen to each other, we give gifts to each other, we drink, and we know that everything we hear is a little message from G-d.
What are the roots of peace in the world? Are they on the level of consciousness, or are they beyond consciousness? It is even much, much deeper than unconscious, beyond subconscious. This is what Purim is about. We celebrate one day on which there is no evil in the world.
You have to know one thing; real peace doesn’t come from anything which you can understand with your mind. If it is this kind of peace, then, if you can make peace, you can make war. If I can love you, then I can hate you. I can be good, I can be bad. Purim is the one day when I am consciously unconscious. I am consciously so high that I know that everything is beyond, beyond the whole thing.
On Purim, when I give you a gift it is because I love you, but I also love you beyond consciousness. I am giving charity to a poor man not because I understand I have to give charity; I am just giving. Everything has to be beyond my intellectual understanding. This is the day when there is no evil in the world.
Can you imagine if you would be consciously unconscious! What a strong consciousness and what a strong unconsciousness. If I am unconsciously unconscious it is not so good. If I am consciously conscious it is also not so good, because I don’t reach. I have to be consciously unconscious, or unconsciously conscious.
Where is all the newness of the world coming from? Why was my grandfather riding on a donkey, and I am in a 747 jet? Because people consciously invented all kinds of things; they were working with their minds. The whole newness of the world is always with the mind, right? On the unconscious level there is no newness happening in the world. Purim is the great holiday when all the newness in the world is happening on the unconscious level. This is where the newness is really coming from. It is not the 747 which makes the world new, it is something much deeper than that. Maybe it is coming out in a 747, which is OK, but the real newness of the world is coming from that which is beyond conscious. Tremendous things are happening every minute to the world. I can’t pick them up with my consciousness, but I need to know where they are coming from. I have to know the marketplace. The marketplace from which they are coming is much, much deeper than anything. The great thing which happens to me after Purim is that my consciousness is so strong, that my consciousness becomes a vessel for everything that was unconscious before, that was beyond my consciousness before, deeper.
The Kotzker Rebbe was the greatest mind in the world. So the Pshischer Rebbe called on the Kotzker on Purim, and he gave him a cup of wine, which, the story goes, was from here up to the ceiling. The Pshischer Rebbe says, “For you, to get rid of your consciousness, wow, you really have to drink a lot!” It is the people who have strong minds who really have to struggle a lot to get out of [beyond] their minds.
With your mind, you have to, annihilate your mind. Don’t annihilate your mind with something which is beyond your mind. The great thing about Purim is that your mind knows that your mind becomes a vessel for that which is beyond your mind.
Just one more sweet little thing. Everything we understand comes from our conscious, right? Where do stories originate? From the imagination. The truth is, a story comes from beyond, beyond our consciousness, but then it flows into my consciousness. Rebbe Nachman says that when you dream, you always dream stories, not theories. Your imagination is completely free when you dream. You only dream stories. On Purim we read the story of the Megilla, the story of Queen Esther. The whole thing of Purim is the story. You have to listen to the story.
Rebbe Nachman says, G-d created man because He loves stories. The whole world is G-d telling a story. It is not, ‘He created the world and then something happened.’ G-d is telling stories, creating the world, creating people, telling long stories.
People are only friends when they tell each other stories. People have big conventions and they tell each other theories. They are not becoming friends by this. But when people sit and tell each other stories, they really become friends.
Tell G-d your story
There is such a thing as praying, which is very deep, but Rebbe Nachman says this is not the deepest depths of closeness to G-d. The deepest depths of closeness to G-d is when you can tell G-d your story. Rebbe Nachman would tell G-d stories all the time. He would tell Him, “Listen G-d, this morning I woke up at five o’clock…” and he would tell Him everything he did. A story.
The difference between Yom Kippur and Purim is that on Yom Kippur we tell G-d what we did wrong, but we tell it to Him not in a way of stories, rather, we say, “I did this wrong, I did that wrong.” On Purim everything is on the level of stories. Even while I am drunk and I am telling G-d in my heart everything that I did wrong, I am telling it in the way of a story.
The Tree of Knowledge is theories, and the Tree of Life is stories.
Purim is the great holiday of stories, you have to be real good, and high, and drunk, to be able to tell your own story to G-d.
G-d is telling us stories, creating the world, creating people, telling long stories.
The Tree of Knowledge is theories and the Tree of Life is stories.
No time to wait
When we left Egypt, it was in the middle. In the middle of the night G-d killed the Egyptian firstborn. That means we also have to get out of Egypt in the middle of the night.
Rebbe Nachman says, when do you have to get out of your evil? Let’s say right now mamash my heart is filled with evil. Do you say, “It is a bad day, I’ll wait till a little bit later, soon the evil will wear off.” No, you have to get out of Egypt in the middle of the night, right when the darkness is the strongest. In the middle, you have to break loose, right there on the spot. Midnight is a split second. That means something happens at that very moment and you’d better be there. You have to know exactly when. That means there are split seconds in our lives when we have a chance to get out of Egypt – and when that moment comes, we’d better get out.
The prophet said, “We went out of Egypt quickly, and on the Great Day we will go slowly.” The meaning is: Until the Great Day is coming, while there is still evil in the world, how do you get out from evil? You can’t go slowly. You cannot afford to go slowly. You have to go fast, run! A little bell is ringing in my head, “I have to be better, I have to do this, I have to…” OK, so fast, jump! You have no time to wait. When Mashiach is coming and there will be no evil in the world anymore, then you can take it slow, play it cool. Right now we cannot afford to.
The greatest slave driver is your mind
The greatest exile is to be enslaved to your own mind. The greatest slave driver is your mind. Your mind always tells you fifteen thousand excuses. Your mind tells you, “Are you crazy? You’ll never make it. You’re telling me suddenly you’ll be another person, you’ll be a better person? You’ll be free? What are you talking about? In a world like this? Pharaoh is the king of the world, and you, a little shmendrik, you, a little slave, how can you fight the whole world, how can you fight Pharaoh?” Your mind tells you this, not your soul, not your unconscious.
So in Chassidus it says that the last preparation for the exodus from Egypt is Purim. How do you get out of Egypt? You have to get drunk beforehand. How do you know that at this very moment, when your little voice is talking to you, you have got to jump out right away. You have to be drunk to do that.
Yaakov and Esau
Esau was actually the first born, but the real, real first born was Yaakov [Jacob]. The midrash says if you put two things in a closet, which do you take out first? The thing you put in second. The midrash says that Yaakov was conceived first, and Esau second, therefore Esau came out first. Really in the deepest depths, Yaakov was the firstborn.
Evil comes from the beginning of the world. G-d created the world in such a way that G-d’s light is not shining [G-d contracted and hid His light in order to create the world]. Yaakov comes from beyond all that.
Amalek comes from the beginning, because he comes from that place which is void of G-d. But the truth is that Yaakov comes from before that.
On Purim, suddenly the whole world is filled with the way the world was before G-d created the world. On Purim, a great light is shining from such a high place, higher and deeper than all the holidays in the world.
Esther says to Mordechai, “Gather all the Jews together.” You know what the problem with us is? We don’t know how much we are connected. We know so very little about how the events in history are connected, but we also don’t know how one human being is connected to the other.
One of the great Rosh Yeshivas once said something unbelievable. Someone told him that in Alaska, one Eskimo killed another Eskimo. He says, do you know where this began? Because one yeshiva bochur insulted another one. The vibrations traveled until it went to Alaska.
We don’t know and understand the connectedness of the world.
Rebbe Nachman says…
The holy master, the holy of holiest, the deepest of the deep, the heilege Rebbe, the heilege Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, says: How does war begin? Somewhere…somewhere… somewhere… somewhere on a lonely island, there is a father and mother and children, and they all woke up in the morning. The parents did not say good morning to the children; the parents did not kiss the children. And the children were so broken, “Nobody, nobody knows how to love us.” And the vibrations traveled all over the world, and the vibrations traveled from one corner of the world to the other, and at the end of the world people kill each other and hate each other.
So where does peace begin? Where does peace begin… where does peace begin… Somewhere, somewhere, somewhere, on a lonely island, father mother and children wake up in the morning. And the parents kiss the children, and they say, “Good morning, good morning little angels from heaven. Good morning, most beautiful children, thank you for being in the world, we could never live without you.” And the vibrations, and the vibrations… at the end of the world, people begin loving each other. People who yesterday hated each other, wake up at the same time, and suddenly there is so much love in their heart that they have to make peace.
I want you to know, my friends, do you know why I don’t walk around giving someone a banana and a half of a piece of cake all year long? Because I don’t think it was important, and I don’t think I am doing anything special, because you have a banana in your house, and cake you also have. Purim… on Purim, when I give someone a banana and a piece of cake, do you know what I am doing? I am wiping out evil from the whole world. I am wiping out Amalek, the arch enemy of Israel, the arch enemy of G-d, and of the world.
What is the greatest evil in the world? The holy Slonimer says that the greatest evil in the world is to think, ‘I am all by myself, nobody loves me, nobody is really connected to me, and my actions don’t affect anybody.’ What is the biggest fixing in the world? When it is clear to me, ah, gevalt, it is clear to me that my bananas affect the whole world, my piece of cake turns over the world. You and I, gevalt are we connected.
Rebbe Nachman says, Yom Tov stands on the street corner and screams out to the world, “Please know that G-d is leading the world, that there is no nature!” He says that you have to listen with your ears and your heart very closely to hear this screaming. The more you hear the Yom Tov yelling out that G-d is leading the world, the more you feel the joy of Yom Tov. G-d forbid, if you are not so happy on Yom Tov, that means you didn’t hear it calling.
How do you get your ears to hear Yom Tov calling? Before Pesach you must give charity, you have to give to the poor. You train your ears by hearing the cries of those in need. Then your ears become refined, and on Yom Tov you can hear G-d telling you, “Know, there is only one G-d.” But if your ears are not open to the crying of the poor, then your ears are deaf and you cannot hear G-d calling either.
Rebbe Nachman talks about something called Noam Elyon, a kind of holy sweetness which flows down from Heaven.
This sweetness is so whole, that if your mind isn’t whole and if your emotions aren’t whole, then you can’t taste it. You don’t have a place in which G-d can give you the taste of this holy sweetness.
Matzo is the simplest bread in the world, just flour and water. No salt, no pepper. Rebbe Nachman says that on Yom Tov the Noam Elyon flows from Heaven in simplicity. If you are not whole, you cannot receive it. The matzo we eat gives over to us its simplicity, its wholeness.
Matzo tastes so good because it is a piece of the sweetness of Noam Elyon.
What makes us so perverted? We put so much work into our little piece of bread. What do people do for the few rubles they make? They put their whole heart and soul into it, and each time they do, they become more and more slaves. The matzo we eat on Pesach doesn’t take much time to make. We put the least amount of time into our food, and the rest of the time we have is for doing great things, to be free.
Don’t Take any Time
This is a Torah from Rebbe Nachman. Sometimes our children ask us questions, and we can take our time in answering. Sometimes if we take our time, we will lose them. Rebbe Nachman says, if our children ask us, “Is there one G-d?” and we say, “Let’s talk it over,” – we’ve lost them. If they ask for advice, what should they do, what career they should have, we can say, let’s talk about it. If they ask, “Are you a Jew?” if you have to think about it, that’s not good. He says, Seder night is when our children ask, “Is there one G-d?” And our answer has to be right away. Don’t take any time.
I remember once reading a book written by one of the outstanding Jewish leaders of one of the other religions. This outstanding leader wrote in the forward to his book that when he was a little boy he once asked a Rabbi if there is one G-d. The Rabbi said, “Let’s discuss it. Come to my house and we’ll discuss it.” He then quoted from here, and he quoted from there. The boy said, “I’m just asking one question, is there one G-d or not?” He couldn’t get an answer out of the Rabbi. The next week, the little boy met a swami and asked him, “Is there one G-d?” The swami said, “Yes, there is.”
Seder night is when I tell my children there is one G-d. There is one Torah. There is Eretz Yisrael. I have no time to waste. It has to be fast.
When someone is drowning, imagine if I would say, “Let me call a Rabbi and ask if I should save this person, because I heard that last year this person ate ham on Yom Kippur.” I call one Rabbi, and the line is busy, so I call somebody else. All these things are cute. In the meantime, the person is drowning.
You know the problem with us Yidden, you know why Mashiach hasn’t come yet? Because we waited, we waited so long. How did Moshe Rabbenu get us out of Egypt? Right now is the time – “bachatzot halayla,” in the middle of the night – right now, don’t think, just go. This is “mochin degadlus,” a high mind. It is not ‘not thinking.’ It is clearer than thinking. It is clear to me. It is on such a high consciousness level, a deep level.
When I see somebody drowning, where do they grasp me? Do they reach for my head? They reach for somewhere else; they touch the deepest depths of my understanding, which triggers something so holy.
So, Seder night, everything is fast, but it’s so clear, and it’s so good. “This I do not say other than when matzo and maror are placed in front of me.” Everything is clear. I can tell my child, “This is matzo, this is maror.” “I am a Jew, there is one G-d.”
You know, friends, we are living in a world where the devil would like so much to be able to take advantage of the great moments which we have. Seder night, every Jew wants to have a Seder. So, what does the devil do? He brings chicken soup and kneidelach. Sometimes I ask people, “How was the Seder?” They answer, “Oh, the food was unbelievable.” When you ask about the Seder, they are not thinking about the Haggada, they are thinking about the food.
I was in India three years ago. I asked one boy, he was a Hindu who didn’t want to come back; I asked him what he knew about Yiddishkeit. He said, “Once a year my family got together for a Seder. The spokesman of the Seder was my uncle, who told over all the dirty jokes he had heard all year long. One night I got up and said, “I don’t think this is what the Seder is all about.” My uncle said to me, “Look who’s talking. You haven’t even finished Hebrew school yet. What do you know?” So I thought that, if all Yiddishkeit can offer me is a night with dirty jokes and chicken soup, who needs it, who wants it?”
When my daughter’s teeth hurt, I send for the best dentist. When my children are sick, I call for the best doctor. When it comes to Yiddishkeit, the soul of the soul, the eternity of all eternities of my children, would I subject them to the lowest people in the world, who don’t know anything?
This is a Torah from Rebbe Nachman. He says that, basically, the downfall and the ultimate slavery in Egypt were brought about because we ate from the Tree of Knowledge. Eating from the Tree of Knowledge causes you to eat your bread with sadness. The beginning of the Seder is that we eat karpas, we eat a little vegetable, and, a few moments later, we are on the level of eating bread with simcha, with joy. Matzo is on the level of eating bread with joy. From the beginning of the Seder, to the matzo, we are fixing everything from the Tree of Knowledge. And it goes so fast, so fast.
Chametz is that everything takes a long time. This is the downfall of mankind. The world says, “We have to wait for peace. It takes time until it comes.” Always waiting, waiting. Matzo is the symbol of alacrity [not waiting] in the service of G-d; today is a great moment – don’t wait.
Crossing the Red Sea
Why do we talk so much about the trial of Yosef? Rav Nachman of Breslov says that each time you do something wrong, you hate one person. Each time you do an aveirah [sin], you hate somebody. And whom do you hate? Somebody you know. It’s clear to me that people who hate people who aren’t religious, have a problem. What’s their problem? They did an aveirah, and, therefore, they hate somebody. They hang their aveirah on someone who doesn’t keep Shabbos.
Hatred comes from an aveirah. Take Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditshov. Why didn’t he hate anybody? Because he never did an aveirah. Why did the Bal Shem Tov not hate anybody? For the same reason.
Now I want to say the deepest depths. If you see a Jew who hates another Jew, the problem is not the Jew who doesn’t keep Shabbos. The problem is the Jew who thinks he keeps Shabbos. He must be doing aveirot [sins] left and right when nobody is looking. Rav Nachman says that if you learn Torah and you don’t understand it, then, obviously, you don’t love Jews, because if you love Jews, then the Torah loves you. The Torah does not allow you to understand it if you don’t like Jews.
I want to say something very deep. If Yosef would have sinned with Potiphar’s wife, he would have hated his brothers. There would have been no way for him to forgive his brothers for selling him. But he was so strong that he didn’t sin, and so his heart was completely void of hatred. As much as he had a right to hate them – he didn’t.
Can you imagine the ‘splitting of the Red Sea’ that Yosef was going through when he saw his brothers? The storm that must have been going on inside of his soul! “Gevalt, you are my brothers – gevalt, what you did to me!” Then, when the moment came, when he was approached by his brother Yehuda, when he stood next to Yehuda and he suddenly realized: Didn’t my mother change for her sister Leah? So why can’t I change for my brother Yehuda? I will do what my mother did. “And Yosef could not restrain himself [Bereshit 45:1].”
Yehuda was ready to give up Olam Haba [the World to Come] for his brother. But splitting the Red Sea is even higher than that – to actually turn yourself over inside – this is something else. So between both of them, both Yosef and Yehuda, together they both built the house of, the family of, G-d.
What happens to most of us when we have a gevalt moment? We go back to where we were before we had it. Jews go to shul on Yom Kippur, have a wonderful experience, and then go back to the way they were before Yom Kippur.
“The Sea returned to its original strength [Shemot 14:27]:” You know how the Sea went back? Not to where it was before it split. It went back to the ‘splitting all the time.’ The Sea is still connected, every second, to its splitting.
All of us have moments when we give everything up [we sacrifice everything]. But then we forget them. They are not incorporated – not connected – to our daily life. This condition that G-d makes with us, of the splitting of the Red Sea, has to be in every second of our lives. Every minute, every second. [When G-d created the Red Sea, He made a condition with it that it would split for the children of Israel.]
Everybody knows that the Temple was destroyed because we hated one another. When we crossed the Red Sea, the Jews saw a vision of the Temple, of Mashiach. What do we need to make us stop hating one another? If only every Jew would say, I’m ready, for the sake of another Jew, to be something else.”
Why are people fighting each other? Fighting comes about when two people do not receive each other on the level of Haninah Ben Dosa. You and I can have completely different ideas, but why do we fight each other? So, Rebbe Nachman says the deepest Torah in the world: When people have a disagreement in Eretz Yisrael [the , it is the sweetest thing. It has a heavenly sweetness. If I say something, and someone has a different thought, what difference does it make? The Torah is so big. But in exile, in chutz la’Aretz, when people disagree, they are really fighting. The Gemara tells us that the Temple was destroyed because of sinas chinom [unprovoked hatred]. You know what that means? Rebbe Nachman says that the moment that you fight, you are already in chutz la’Aretz, you are not in Eretz Yisrael. The Temple can’t exist outside of Eretz Yisrael.
Geula Shleima: The Fixing of Fear
It says at the beginning of Parshat Beshalach, “Vayehi Beshalach… sadly it was that Pharaoh let the Jewish people go.” The commentaries ask, Why “sadly?” The Ishbitzer Rebbe says, there are moments when you have the opportunity to get everything in the world, and the saddest thing is when, at that moment, you limit yourself to one thing.
That night when G-d brought us out of Egypt, we had everything in our hands to bring the redemption. At that moment, we could have done thousands of additional things, but we were just happy to get out. It’s heartbreaking, why did we limit ourselves to something small? We could have eliminated everything at that moment, and fixed everything. We always take less at the wrong time. The moment when the Gates are open, don’t limit yourself to something small.
What will happen when Mashiach comes? What’s hatred about between nations? Hatred comes from our missing something that isn’t ours, something we didn’t take.
When G-d took us out of Egypt, you know what was wrong? We were still afraid of Pharaoh. When we left Auschwitz, we were still afraid of the Nazis. This is engraved fear. The miracle at the Red Sea is that G-d took fear from us, for a moment we were free.
Fear paralyzes us. The less fear, the more free we are, the more we can grow.
Our Torah says that the lowest, simplest person in the world, when he crossed the Red Sea, had higher vision than Ezekiel the Prophet. We were ready for the highest. For one moment, all of Israel had the same vision as Moshe. Why don’t we have the same vision as Moshe all the time? It’s because of fear.
If I’m absolutely free inside, I’m not afraid of anything.
By the end of Pesach we reach the level of infinite Prophecy and infinite riches. The Egyptians brought all their gold and silver with them, and the ocean spat it out.
There’s high oneness and lower oneness. The high oneness is like on Rosh HaShanah, when I fall down before G-d. There is only G-d: I don’t exist. Low oneness is there’s you, and then there’s me.
Why does a seed have to disintegrate before it becomes something? What remains of the seed is the deepest depths, a vessel for everything. When we stood at the Red Sea, at that very moment we were in a state of the deepest disintegration. On the one side Egyptians, on another side the Sea, and on the third side, wild animals. At that moment we were at the deepest place of recognition, and it was the children who saw G-d first when they crossed the Red Sea. We were disintegrating, but obviously not yet enough. We were still afraid of Pharaoh, we were still too afraid to be prophets.
What’s the first sign that someone’s a slave? No self-confidence, fear.
Why isn’t Mashiach coming? We’re still a little afraid of it.
Rebbe Nachman says that you can’t taste the hidden light of the world unless you first get rid of fear, because fear paralyzes us mentally and physically. At the Red Sea we learned not to be afraid, to trust G-d in the deepest way.
We are so afraid of loving people. The only ones who aren’t afraid are our children. Seder night is the fixing of fear. How do we do it? We make children the center.
On the first day of Pesach a sin offering is brought to ask G-d to forgive us for not bringing Mashiach sooner. We might have, but we were afraid to.
At the crossing of the Red Sea, all of Israel went to mikva for the first time ever. It was just before Mount Sinai – our conversion – therefore we all went to the mikva.
The end of Pesach is the highest mikva in the world. Most people don’t keep Shabbos, don’t keep Yom Tov, because they’re afraid to. Even when they keep it, it’s not done on the level of Kriyas Yam Suf [crossing the Red Sea]. Only after we cross the Red Sea can we receive the gift of a Shabbos without limits, a Yom Tov without limits. Shabbos and Yom Tov are gifts from the inside, inside, inside of heaven.
The way to fight evil is by becoming infinitely holy.
When we get out of Egypt, Pharaoh is still there. There is still evil left in the world. If we know that there is still evil left in the world, how can we sing? But when we crossed over the Red Sea, there was no evil in our world, so now we could sing.
In order to sing you have to be free. Okay. The slaves from Africa used to sing to tell you that no matter how much you tried to enslave them, they were still free. Singing comes from the world of freedom. When you sing, you are telling evil, “You don’t have dominion over me.”
In Judaism, the walking, the journey, is so important. Judaism becomes precious because of the long walk. The holiness of it is that it teaches you that you are always on the road. Teachers have to teach you the holiness of walking, and they have to walk with you. The Bal Shem Tov says that a teacher who doesn’t walk with you, doesn’t know your soul, and is not a real teacher.
Rosh Chodesh [the new month] is basically the essence of teshuva [returning to G-d]. Shabbos is not so much teshuva. Shabbos is mamash simcha [joy] and oneg [bliss].
Rosh Chodesh is mamash teshuva. Why is it teshuva? Because the moon begins to shine again at the new month. What is it when a person does teshuva, what happens to you? You are beginning to shine again. You were mamash dead before. And suddenly you begin to shine again.
So how do you begin to shine?
There is something very special in always becoming more, and more, and more… Rosh Chodesh is not that suddenly the moon becomes more than last month. Rosh Chodesh is that the moon mamash stopped, there is no more moon, and then it begins again.
Most people don’t do teshuva because they always think; “The way it is now is the way it will be all the time.”
Teshuva is that, at a certain period, I mamash say, “No, it can’t be like this anymore.” And I mamash am getting off my high horse. I am getting less, and less, and less, and less. And at that moment when it is clear to me that I am mamash like dead, that the way it is now mamash can’t continue, at that moment I begin to shine again.
Shabbos, therefore, does not need the Beis Din [Rabbinic court] to announce it, though Rosh Chodesh does need the tzadikim [holy people] to do it. Because, there is a certain torah which I can learn, such as, if someone tells me, “Hey, you know, you have to buy kosher meat. You have to bench licht [light Shabbos candles] at 5:25 p.m.,” that is something I can learn. But then there are certain things that are so deep, that unless I see people mamash doing it, I wouldn’t know how to do it. So Rosh Chodesh has to be announced by the Beis Din of seventy one. The Beis Din of seventy one were obviously the biggest tzadikim, and they were the ones who mamash, mamash do it. They mamash have already reached the highest level, and yet, they are thinking all the time, “Oy, I didn’t do anything yet.”
It is not that they think, “I have to do more.” There is something very holy in: “I want to always be more.” That is one thing; but that is not what Rosh Chodesh is all about. Rosh Chodesh is that I am mamash like dead, chas veshalom. Nothing is there.
The Gemara says, “En haTorah mitkayemes ela bemi shememis atsmo aleha.” It has a lot of meanings. The ordinary meaning is that the Torah is only with someone who mamash completely kills his own ego, his own personal desires, for the Torah. This is one meaning. But Rebbe Nachman says another meaning: Mamash, he has to make himself like dead. It means to feel like everything I did so far is nothing. Mamash nothing.
When G-d created the world, the sun and the moon had the same light. So the moon came to G-d and said, “Two kings having the same light? It doesn’t go.” So G-d says to the moon, “Ok, you become smaller.” And not only does the moon become smaller, but the entire moon is constantly coming and going.
The world always says that G-d was punishing the moon for the chutzpah [audacity] of saying that. But obviously G-d was not punishing the moon. If G-d was punishing the moon, why is Dovid HaMelech [King David] likened to the moon?
The answer is that there is a light like the sun which is always the same. It is very holy, and very beautiful. But the moon realizes that it has got to be mamash deeper; teshuva is deeper than all of this.
The Mittler Rebbe of Lubavich
The Mittler Rebbe was, so to speak, the expert on teshuva. Someone came to the Mittler Rebbe and said, “Rebbe, I heard you are an expert on teshuva. You wrote so many volumes of teshuva, can you please teach me how to do teshuva?”
He said, “You know, the truth is, though I wrote so many sforim [holy books], I still don’t know how to do teshuva.”
On one hand, this is a Torah teaching which you can give over to somebody, and then there are Torah teachings which you have to bring down to the world, they are not here yet.
I can’t tell you, “Ah, this is the way to do teshuva.” like a cook book. “You put in a little teshuvale here, a little teshuvale there, and you take a bal teshuva spoon, and then you make teshuva soup.” It doesn’t go this way.
Teshuva is something which doesn’t exist in the world. It is not part of the world.
Being part of the world means that it exists, and I do it or don’t do it. “Teshuva kadma leolam” means teshuva doesn’t exist yet, it is not there yet.
So the moon was saying to G-d, “It has got to be more than this. There has to be something from beyond. Something from beyond the world.”
The deepest knowing
And therefore the Beis Din Hagadol, only they knew something which, so to speak, doesn’t exist yet. “Tachlis hayedia shelo neda [The deepest knowing is not knowing].” Knowing how to make Rosh Chodesh is not the deepest knowing, it is, like, the deepest not knowing.
What is the sun? The sun is G-d’s light. And I can walk around all my life, and I think, “I really know all about G-d.” And even if I do know a lot, I may be the biggest Kabalist, and the biggest gaon [genius], knowing every word of the Torah. Let’s say, I know a little bit about G-d. Still Rosh Chodesh is when it is clear to me that I have no idea what G-d is all about. I don’t know anything.
Everybody knows that Torah shebechtav [written Torah] is the sun, and Torah shebalpeh [oral Torah] is the moon.
How do I get to Torah shebal peh? I am learning a passuk [passage], and last year I thought that I knew what it says, and this year it is clear to me that I don’t have the faintest idea. I am learning Gemara, I learned this Gemara a hundred times, I know every word by heart. Suddenly something happens to me; it is clear to me that I don’t know anything. Mamash nothing.
The Talmud says, Shabbos, the heilege Shabbos, is a gift from heaven. And you know, my beautiful friends, it is possible to keep every law of Shabbos, but the gift of Shabbos, the sweetness of Shabbos, the oneg Shabbos, the holiness of Shabbos, you have to ask for, and you have to pray for. We all need it so much. We all would like it if in the Holy Land everybody would have Shabbos, but what we have to do is to give each other the gift – the gift of Shabbos. We have the power, G-d gave us the strength, to make Shabbos so holy, so beautiful. I bless you and me, we should give over Shabbos to our children, to our neighbors, and maybe one day, one day the whole world will be filled with Shabbos, with bliss, with sweetness. The whole world will be Shabbos.
The holy Master Rebbe Nachman says: You know why there is no peace in the world? Because you can only make peace when you have so much joy. You cannot make peace with anger. Shabbos shalom umevorach [A peaceful and blessed Sabbath]. Only with sweetness, with bliss, with holiness, will we bring peace into the world.
On Bentshing Gomel – Shabbos
On four occasions we have to bentsh gomel [say a special blessing thanking G-d for helping us]. One occasion is when someone had been lost in the desert, another one is when someone had been in prison, the third is when someone had been sick, and the fourth is when someone crossed the ocean by ship, or, now most people say, if one flew over the ocean.
What is the whole question of being in exile or being free? Being in exile means I am not in the place where I am supposed to be. Free means I am in the place where I am supposed to be. The two don’t have to be different addresses. If I am sick, I am really not in the place I am supposed to be, because I am supposed to be well. If I am crazy, G-d forbid, I am also not in the place I am supposed to be. If I am lost in the desert, or in prison, or in the waves of the ocean, I am not where I am supposed to be.
The Gemara says that evil is a strange ingredient. If you put some in the cake or the soup, like salt or pepper, it really tastes good. If you overdo it, however, you feel there is something in the soup that doesn’t belong there. So a certain amount of evil is important. Evil has something good about it, a certain fire, a certain battle. If I would do everything without free choice, if I would just want to do it, it would be nothing. If I had free choice and I did it, then it does something to me. Rebbe Nachman says, the whole idea of evil was created only in order to give me free choice. Evil was never in the world for me to do evil, it was only put there so that when I do right – it can be done on a different, higher level. If we do wrong, that is completely out of place.
Every Jew, every person, is in exile in his own way; we are not in the place that we should be, and all of Israel is also not in the place where they should be. This is only until Shabbos comes. When Shabbos comes, then, suddenly, something happens and we become free. That means we get rid of that part of us which is the wrong ingredient, we are back in our place, everything is right again.
The first reason for bentshing gomel is due to having been lost in the desert. What is in the desert? In the desert, nothing grows, nothing happens. The strongest exile might be to be a desert person, to do nothing, like a desert where nothing grows, where nothing is built. What is this exile of desert? It is laziness. Actually, this is the utmost of evil. Laziness comes from gravity. Gravity pulls us down, makes everything heavy so that we don’t have the strength to do it. Rebbe Nachman says that yesod heafar, the element of earth, is such that holy earth makes everything grow, and unholy earth makes everything heavy, just by the gravity of it, nothing else.
There is no way out of laziness. You just have to stop being lazy. There are no two ways about it. Do you know what lazy means? Food is in front of you and you are too lazy to lift up your hand. There is food all over, holy food. You are dying from hunger, and food is right there in front of you.
How can you get rid of laziness? you can’t take it out of yourself alone. There are certain things that you can get rid of on your own, certain sicknesses for which you can take medicine, and there are certain other sicknesses for which you just have to see a doctor. There is a sickness called laziness and you can’t get rid of it on your own. There has to be a great light from Heaven to cure you. This is Shabbos. Suddenly, when Shabbos comes, we get rid of all this heaviness, all this gravity. We stop being a desert, and we are ready to build again.
The second person who has to bentsh gomel is a person who has been in prison. What is a prison? I am in one room and I can’t get out. What is so bad about being in prison? I have a bed, and they feed me, so what is so bad? I can’t move. This is not being lazy, it is something else.
Imagine meeting someone who says something to me that really hurts you. The person didn’t mean it, and it is just a stupid thing. It is possible that you could be very stupid and be bothered by it. You could walk around for weeks and be in prison all the time, thinking, “Why did they say that?” First of all, ask why they said it, maybe they didn’t mean it.
Everyone has his own little prison. He is hung up on one little thing, and he can’t get out of it.
This is not laziness. This is complete darkness. Laziness is not darkness, it is just laziness, and nothing happens. But this is darkness, because whatever good happens to me, whatever great things I can do in the world, whatever good and holy things people tell me, are spoiled if I am still thinking, “Why did that person say that?” This is possible, and it puts darkness into everything. Shabbos takes you out of that darkness.
Then comes the third example, the person who was sick. There are two levels of sickness. There is one kind of sickness in which you are simply sick. Then there is a stronger kind of sickness which is that even when they give you the best food, you think it tastes bad, and when they give you the lowest, rotten, most evil smelling food, you think it is tremendous. It is possible that your sense of taste is completely gone, but that you are still alive. But then there is an even lower level, G-d forbid, where you are just about dead. Then comes Shabbos. Every Shabbos, G-d gives us one holy word to bring us back to life. Within those twenty-six hours of Shabbos, either you or someone else tells you one holy word, and this one holy word can really get to you, if you only have enough sense to hold on to it.
The person who bentshes gomel for crossing the ocean represents the whole world, and the way people in the world treat each other – going up and down like waves in the sea. You are living in the world, and the vibrations of all the lies in the world really gets to you, it makes you go up and down, knocks you off. The Bal Shem Tov says, the body is a ship, and the soul is in the ship. The body goes up and down: one minute super holy, one minute absolutely at the lowest point – just like the waves. It is not that we are not holy – we are holy, but the whole problem is that the next minute we are low down again. We are both the holy of holiest, and we are the unholy of the unholiest. We don’t know where we belong. It is like a ship in the ocean that can’t find anchorage.
Then comes Shabbos, and on Shabbos we are in a place where the whole world can’t reach us. We can really find our place, back on the shore.