Friday, April 5, 2024

Parshat Shemini - Nadav and Avihu: Lacking a Settled Mind

 BH


Parshat Shemini addresses the sudden demise of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron HaKohen. The passage unequivocally states that they presented a foreign fire, Esh Zarah, when offering the Ketoret without Divine command. Rashi adds that they were unmarried. Another aspect is their intoxication. Furthermore, they purportedly issued halakhic rulings in the presence of Moshe Rabbeinu. All these factors are attributed to the fate of Nadav and Avihu. While their bodies remained intact, their souls were consumed by holy fire, leaving them lifeless.

Reb Noson delves deeply into the significance of the death of Nadav and Avihu and its broader implications. First, regarding their unmarried status, Reb Noson explains that marriage serves to balance a man. The inherent tendency of individuals, particularly those knowledgeable, is to constantly pursue, advance, and seek deeper understanding. However, Rebbe Nachman teaches in Lesson 24 that true knowledge is attained through halting, pausing, and settling the mind. This settled state allows one to become a vessel for perceiving the Infinite Light, the pinnacle of wisdom attainable. Yet, if one is constantly in a state of pursuit, it becomes impossible to achieve this profound perception.

In marriage, the role of the woman, referred to as “Eshet Chayil Ateret Ba’ala (A woman of valor is a crown to her husband)”, from the verse in Proverbs, is crucial. Ateret, meaning crown, corresponds to the sephira Keter, acting as the intermediary between humanity and the Infinite Light. Keter has the function of halting those whose minds are continuously seeking to perceive and advance, providing the necessary pause for mental settling. Once the mind is settled, one can perceive the Infinite Light. Therefore, a woman of valor plays the pivotal role of putting her husband on pause, facilitating the mental settling required for perceiving deeper wisdom. This underscores the sacredness of the role of a wife and the institution of marriage.

Nadav and Avihu, lacking this marital balance, were perpetually in pursuit mode, striving to advance continuously. While this pursuit is admirable, it remains incomplete. True wisdom lies in acknowledging the extent of one’s ignorance. The ultimate aim of wisdom is recognizing the vast expanse of what is yet to be known. Embracing this state of not knowing elevates one to higher levels of understanding, marking a never-ending journey of knowing, not knowing, and striving for deeper comprehension. Nadav and Avihu’s deficiency stemmed from their lack of the pause and balance that marriage provides.

Secondly, the sages suggest that Nadav and Avihu were in a state of Shtuyei Yayin, meaning they were intoxicated or tipsy. This condition implies an unsettled mind, which is incompatible with perceiving the Infinite Light. Their minds were operating in a mode of constant pursuit, lacking the necessary brakes for mental balance. Despite their elevated spiritual status as tzaddikim, their behavior resembled that of drunkenness. The imbalance induced by drunkenness mirrors the lack of restraint in a mind consumed by endless pursuit of knowledge. However, without the necessary pause or brakes, such a relentless pursuit poses a danger, akin to a potential mental crash, akin to the state of a drunken mind.

Thirdly, they are faulted for presumptuously ruling on halakhic matters in the presence of their Rav – Moshe Rabeinu. Such audacity suggests a severe imbalance in their minds. This imbalance arises when an individual erroneously believes they possess complete understanding, leading them to assert themselves in matters of Jewish law before their teacher. This behavior constitutes a blemish, an impairment, indicating a fundamental flaw. Despite their elevated status as tzaddikim, the Torah holds Nadav and Avihu accountable for these shortcomings.

Reb Noson underscores the importance of achieving Yishuv HaDa’at, a settled mind, noting that even the greatest tzaddikim can stumble in this regard. He cites the example of Shimon and Levi, the brothers of Joseph the Righteous, renowned tzaddikim in their own right. Yet, their perception was distorted, leading them to wrongly conclude that Joseph deserved death. This erroneous judgment resulted from a subtle but significant blemish in their perspective. From this flaw, subsequent generations suffered, as evidenced by the descendants of Shimon and Levi, namely Zimri and Korach.

Zimri, despite his scholarly status, sought to permit public immorality, while Korach coveted personal honor and openly challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron. Their actions reveal a profound lack of Yishuv HaDa’at, a settled mind, despite their scholarly attainments. Reb Noson emphasizes that this imbalance carries significant consequences in life. Thus, he advocates for striving towards Yishuv HaDa’at, achieved through a balance of pursuit and restraint. This balance was notably absent in Nadav and Avihu, highlighting the importance of achieving a settled mind.

Furthermore, they offered Ketoret. Rebbe Nachman extols Ketoret as profoundly significant, as it has the power to evoke joy. Joy, Rebbe Nachman teaches, is essential for achieving a settled mind. This settled state necessitates balance, restraint, and acceptance of setbacks and pauses in a proper manner, all of which are facilitated by joy. Ketoret serves as the catalyst for activating this joy.

One might question why, if Nadav and Avihu offered Ketoret, they weren’t protected from harm. The answer lies in understanding the limitations of Ketoret. When offered at the right time and for the right reasons – by the Kohen at the prescribed times or in our modern context, during the shacharit and mincha prayers – Ketoret can indeed generate positivity and open the door to the Infinite Light. However, in the case of Nadav and Avihu, their actions revealed a lack of commitment to joy. Their unmarried status and relentless pursuit of knowledge indicated a disregard for joy, which stems from appreciation, acknowledgment of setbacks, and humility.

Despite their elevated status as tzaddikim, their actions exhibited a subtle yet significant blemish – a refusal to submit to the authority of Moshe Rabbeinu. In essence, they displayed a form of arrogance or stubbornness by proceeding without permission. In such a state, the Ketoret could not provide protection. Ketoret is effective when performed according to the instructions and guidance of the tzaddikim, who emphasize its role in activating joy. When carried out in this manner, Ketoret fulfills its intended purpose. Whether through recitation today or in the time of the Beit HaMikdash when the Kohanim conducted the ritual, Ketoret is effective only when aligned with Divine commandments, as opposed to personal intentions, as was the case with Nadav and Avihu.

In conclusion, achieving balance is paramount in every stage of life. This equilibrium is particularly challenging for Jews undergoing teshuva or converts, who often yearn to embrace the light and flee from darkness. While this impulse is understandable, true completion lies in cultivating a settled mind, which is essential for perceiving Godliness in life. Life itself, with its myriad setbacks, teaches the value of patience and waiting, enabling one to prepare their mind to receive Divine guidance and clarity from the Infinite Light.

Let us learn from the example of Nadav and Avihu, emphasizing patience and the importance of handling matters properly. Additionally, let us recognize the value of marriage, where the role of the wife in applying brakes to the husband’s pursuits is crucial. Furthermore, let us heed Rebbe Nachman’s caution against excessive drinking. While Purim and certain ritual occasions permit it, optional drinking for mere merriment is discouraged. Instead, Rebbe Nachman advocates for cultivating happiness through personal effort, and not that found in a “bottled” version.

May we internalize these lessons and proceed with caution, advancing in life with the guidance of God.

This article also appears on the BRI breslov.org website: https://breslov.org/nadav-and-avihu-lacking-a-settled-mind/

For a video presentation of this article: https://youtu.be/06Ph7SCJEng


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Shabbat Shalom
Meir Elkabas
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Friday, March 29, 2024

The Joy and Purification of Thanksgiving

BH


Following Purim is an amazing Shabbat called Shabbat Parah. This year, due to it being a leap year, it coincides with Parshat Tzav. Parshat Tzav elaborates on the guidelines and details of sacrifices introduced in Parshat Vayikra, including the Korban Todah, or the Thanksgiving offering. The Korban Todah is given by four types of people, each in a different scenario of danger, expressing gratitude to Hashem for the miraculous deliverance. These groups include those who emerged safely from the desert, those released from incarceration, individuals who recovered from severe illness, and those rescued from peril at sea.

Remarkably, the Korban Todah comprises 40 loaves of bread, featuring four distinct types with ten loaves of each. These include Challat Matzot, Rekikin, Murbechet, and actual Hametz. Notably, Hametz’s inclusion is unusual, as offerings typically exclude leavening agents, adhering strictly to Matzah without any souring or yeast. This anomaly underscores the significance of the Korban Todah in its unique composition.

Reb Noson delves into the intricate details of the Korban Todah, elucidating its profound significance and the expansive nature of gratitude. He illustrates how the four types of individuals mandated to offer this sacrifice on a personal level represent diverse scenarios.

Firstly, there are those who feel spiritually adrift, akin to traversing a desert without direction. Despite the arduous journey, when one reaches out to Hashem and emerges from this spiritual desert, gratitude and joy abound. However, this transformation requires a prerequisite of personal fortitude—strengthening oneself amidst adversity.

Secondly, there are individuals who sense confinement, akin to being imprisoned by life’s obstacles. Overcoming such impediments elicits profound thanksgiving, necessitating the cultivation of inner strength and resilience amidst frustration.

Thirdly, there are those spiritually ailing, grappling with confusion and lethargy akin to a debilitating illness. Overcoming such spiritual malaise demands fortitude against succumbing to despair, leading to a renewal of gratitude upon emergence.

Lastly, there are those who face the tumultuous seas of spiritual struggle, experiencing highs and lows akin to being lifted to the heavens only to plummet to the depths. Amidst this daunting journey, maintaining joy is paramount to stave off despair, ultimately culminating in expressions of gratitude upon safe passage.

These narratives underscore the transformative power of gratitude in navigating life’s diverse challenges, requiring inner strength and resilience to emerge with thanksgiving intact.

Reb Noson also delves into the significance of the number ten in Judaism and the Torah, elucidating its profound symbolism. Beyond its association with the Ten Commandments, the Ten Utterances of Creation, the Ten Sephirot, and the ten levels of holiness in the Holy Land and the Temple, Reb Noson expounds on the ten types of melody.

King David utilized ten types of melody in composing the Book of Psalms. These melodies hold a healing power capable of uplifting every Jew, regardless of their circumstances, and instilling them with the light of joy to persevere and continue in life.

Therefore, the inclusion of ten loaves of each of the four types of bread in the Korban Todah serves to activate joy through these melodies. Reb Noson proceeds to elaborate on the four types of bread. The first, Challat Matza, derives its name from the concept of Challah, the portion of dough separated during bread-making, symbolized by the numerical value of its letters (43 – ח=8 ל=30 ה=5).

43 – “Gam” in Hebrew, meaning “also,” emphasizes its connection to Malkhut in Kabbalistic teachings. This phrase, “Gam Zot,” signifies inclusion and completeness.

The ultimate goal is to navigate and overcome the challenges represented by Chametz, reaching a pinnacle of joy and gratitude

Reb Noson further elaborates, drawing from Rebbe Nachman’s teachings in Lesson 24, to explain the sequential stages of joy activation represented by each type of bread in the Korban Todah.

The initial stage involves elevating Malkhut, the Divine Kingship, from the clutches of evil forces through joyous effort. This elevation is symbolized by the first ten loaves of Challat Matzah, indicating the triumph of joy in lifting Malkhut from exile.

The second stage is depicted by the Rekikin, thin flat loaves, which symbolize the flattening of spiritual adversaries through joy. By engaging in mitzvahs with joy, one’s “spiritual legs” metaphorically trample over obstacles.

Moving on to the third stage, Murbechet, boiled bread resembling bagels, signifies the inflamed mind fueled by bodily fluids akin to oil. After elevating the mind through joy and overcoming adversaries, one achieves a heightened receptivity to divine wisdom and intellect.

Finally, the fourth stage introduces Chametz, symbolizing the souring of the mind with negative thoughts and setbacks. Despite its danger, overcoming this stage demonstrates one’s resilience and willpower to endure through faith and joy. Chometz represents a higher level than Matzah, signifying the ability to withstand adversities and emerge with heightened joy.

Thus, each type of bread in the Thanksgiving offering encapsulates a distinct aspect of the journey towards joy and spiritual elevation.

Remarkably, the concept of Chametz aligns seamlessly with Parshat Parah. King Solomon famously remarked about the red heifer, stating its enigmatic nature, that it is impossible to understand. The red heifer possesses the unique ability to purify the impure while simultaneously rendering the pure impure. Understanding how it purifies the impure is comprehensible; it was sprinkled upon those contaminated by contact with a dead body, enabling them to enter the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after a specific purification process.

However, perplexingly, those involved in preparing the formula of the red heifer, the Kohanim, became impure in the process. This paradoxical aspect of the Parshat Parah—making pure impure—defies conventional logic. While many mitzvot in the Torah have reasons or rationales behind them, Parshat Parah stands as an exception, beyond human comprehension.

Indeed, while Torah often offers explanations for mitzvot, the red heifer serves as a reminder that even those with apparent rationales are ultimately beyond full human understanding. Delving into the depths of Torah reveals layers of complexity that challenge our comprehension, echoing the sentiment that the ultimate goal of knowledge is recognizing the vastness of what remains unknown.

This underscores the essence of Torah study. Engaging in rigorous learning not only expands knowledge but also deepens awareness of the limitless depths of Torah wisdom. Through rigorous study and contemplation, individuals come to realize the boundless expanse of Torah knowledge, humbly acknowledging the vastness of what lies beyond their grasp. Thus, far from discouraging learning, this realization fuels an insatiable thirst for knowledge, driving individuals to explore the depths of Torah wisdom despite its unfathomable complexity.

This is the significance of Parshat Parah. The ashes of the Red Heifer purified from the most severe impurities, illustrating that a combination of Torah study and faith—acknowledging what one knows and doesn’t know—can purify even in the direst circumstances. This level of Torah and Emunah – faith – can cleanse a person, no matter the gravity of their transgressions.

Parshat Parah, following Purim, aligns with the progression of spiritual elevation seen in the Korban Todah, moving from joy to overcoming adversity to intellectual attainment and ultimately to purity. Just as the Korban Todah expresses gratitude for deliverance from danger, Parshat Parah signifies reaching a level of purity through faith and Torah study.

The cow, or Parah, chosen for this mitzvah serves as a reminder for humans to emulate its simplicity and obedience. Just as the cow follows instructions without question, individuals facing aspects of Torah beyond their understanding should rely on simple faith. This blend of faith and Torah study serves as the key to purification.

As we observe Shabbat Parah, may we experience a renewed sense of purity and embark on a fresh beginning, guided by the principles of faith and Torah study.

(This article also appears on the BRI breslov.org website: https://breslov.org/the-joy-and-purification-of-thanksgiving/)

For a video presentation of the above article: https://youtu.be/2ZCCwgqVFSo:


~~~

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Meir Elkabas
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The Supernatural Miracles of the Makom

 BH



The Great Light and Miracle of Pesach

 BH


If you have been inspired by this class/lecture please share it with your friends etc. Thank you. 

 Based on Likutey Moharan lesson 24:

Why did Hashem have to intervene and shine a high and lofty light to bring the Jews out of Egypt when the normal procedure should have been to let the Jews slowly build up a level of intellect matching the redemption mode needed?

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Friday, March 15, 2024

Parshat Pekudey - The Mishkan's Supernatural Power

 BH


The Torah invests greatly in detailing the Mishkan/Holy Temple’s construction and significance. What was the purpose of the Holy Temple? It serves as an interface beacon between us and Hashem.

This world, composed of physical matter, is our makom—our place. Hashem is the root and source of everything, also referred to as the Makom, meaning the Place. Logically, when Hashem created us, our goal became to connect from this physical realm to Him. However, this connection isn’t easy. Throughout history, Jews have attempted, often unsuccessfully, to bridge this gap.

Consider the golden calf incident: Jews, expected to connect to Hashem after receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, faltered, turning to idolatry. To rectify this, a beacon was needed—a place to connect to Hashem. The Mishkan/Holy Temple, made of physical materials yet designed according to Hashem’s specific prescriptions, served this purpose. Once properly constructed, the Shekhinah descended, making the Temple a “makom” for Hashem’s Presence in our world.

When we pray anywhere in the world, we face the Holy Land —Yerushalayim, the Temple Mount and the Holy of Holies. This direction serves as our connector to Hashem. Thus, the Temple is both physical and spiritual—an interface connecting us to Hashem.

Our assistance comes from the Temple and the Tabernacle because on our own, attempting to transcend physicality to connect with God proves challenging—we often falter easily. Thus, in the absence of the Beit HaMikdash and the Mishkan, we turn to synagogues and study halls—our Mikdash Me’at, as the Gemara teaches. These places serve as miniature sanctuaries, where Jews gather to pray and learn.

Why the emphasis on unity in these spaces? Reb Noson elaborates: The physical world operates within the confines of natural laws, devoid of miracles. Miracles stem from the supernatural, from the spiritual realm beyond nature. The source of all miracles lies in the holy Temple, even post-destruction. The Beit Hamikdash and the Mishkan, with their dual nature—half physical, half spiritual—serve as conduits for supernatural occurrences.

When we pray, facing the Temple, we implicitly seek miracles. Whether in a minyan or during personal reflection (Hitbodedut), all blessings and miracles originate from the Beit Hamikdash. This notion is reflected in Halacha: when one encounters a site of past miracles, one recites a blessing, attributing the miracle to Hashem’s intervention. The term “Makom” is used (שעשה לי נס במקום הזה), signifying both a physical place and symbolizing Hashem and the Temple, emphasizing that miracles flow from the spiritual realm into our physical world through the Temple.

Therefore, the Temple is essential—it serves as our conduit to draw down the light and energy of supernatural miracles into our prayers, bridging the gap between the physical and spiritual realms.

This is the essence of the Temple and why the Torah places such significance on the construction of the Mishkan. We all require this intermediary conduit—not, God forbid, to pray to it, but to connect with God. We need a physical structure infused with spirituality, mirroring our own composition—physical bodies with spiritual souls. Alone, it’s easy to falter, but unified by a structure, by collective effort, the light can descend.

Understanding this sheds light on why Haman and his sons sought to halt the rebuilding of the Second Temple. Historical background in the Megillah recounts how Cyrus the Great permitted Jews to commence the reconstruction, only for Haman’s descendants to intervene. Even King Achashverosh, while granting Queen Esther nearly any request, drew a line at rebuilding the Temple—the very heart of Jewish spirituality. Why the resistance? The Temple symbolized everything they opposed—the pursuit of an exclusively atheistic existence, materialism, and disbelief in miracles and the supernatural.

For Haman, his sons, and Achashverosh, success stemmed from worldly power and wealth, not Divine intervention. The Temple, with its promise of supernatural miracles through physical means, directly contradicted their worldview. Their opposition stemmed from a desire for self-reliance and worldly achievements, the antithesis of the Temple’s purpose.

Thus, the Temple’s greatness lies in its defiance of such worldly values. Its significance remains paramount, fueling our hope for the rebuilding of the Third Temple. As we prepare during these Shabbatot and celebrate the miraculous events of Purim, may we merit its swift realization, with the help of Hashem.

This article also appears on the BRI breslov.org website: https://breslov.org/the-mishkans-supernatural-power/

To view a video presentation of the above article: https://youtu.be/rIXEdvM53fg


~~~

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Shabbat Shalom, and have an amazing week

Meir Elkabas
WhatsApp: +1-732-800-1863


Wednesday, March 13, 2024

From Makom to Makom

 BH


BH

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Likutey Moharan lesson 24 007-9d

The terminology of Makom as both place and a reference to Hashem - something which seems so contradictory - and yet they are both connected through the factor of multiplication which is called "hitting" in the terminology of Gematria etc. (Also discussed is the Shekalim of Haman)

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Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The Mentality of Matzah vs. Chametz

 BH


If you have been inspired by this class/lecture please share it with your friends etc. Thank you. 

 Based on Likutey Moharan lesson 24: 

Likutey Halakhot, Orach Chaim, Nefilat Apayim #4 011-3

How the Jews in Egypt did not yet have the power of the settling and structuring of the mind to properly absorb and delve into the high level light of intellectual experience that Hashem shone into them at the Exodus, and that is why it was totally forbidden and dangerous to eat Chametz at the time as the fermentation and leaving status of that nourishment will cause them to ferment their minds at a time that they need to run out of Egypt etc.

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