Grave of Rebbe Nachman - circa 1920 (man at entrance - Reb Alter Tepliker הי"ד)

Friday, July 12, 2024

The Crown of the Kohanim - Parshat Chukat

 BH

Grave of Aharon HaKohen

In Likutey Moharan lesson 24 Rebbe Nachman explains that the power of joy (simcha) in performing mitzvot is so immense that it can literally shake the entire world, bringing everyone back to Hashem. This collective awakening activates blessings, particularly the birkat ha-sechel, the blessing of intellect. When you receive such a blessing, you can choose material wealth, like a Ferrari or a nice house, or you can choose knowledge of Hashem, as King Solomon did. With knowledge of Hashem, everything else follows because all wealth and riches are encompassed within the Torah. Once you attain perception and knowledge, everything else is included.

The greatest blessing is the blessing of sechel (intellect). However, a person should not rely solely on this intellect. Instead, he must combine it with emunah (faith). While knowledge is crucial, in serving Hashem, one must set aside intellectual gymnastics and serve Him with complete faith. The faith is strengthened by knowledge, but the ultimate goal is to merge intellect with faith. This combination activates a high, lofty level known in Kabbalah as the Keter, the crown. The Keter acts as a boundary, like a crown on a king’s head, separating the people from the king’s intellect.

Similarly, the Keter separates us from Hashem’s Infinite Light. When a person successfully combines joy-derived intellect with faith, they connect to this Keter, which then filters and shines the highest level of clarity, called the Infinite Light, into their life. On a practical level, the Infinite Light means having clarity in every aspect of life. Imagine having no frustrations, no confusions, and no feelings of being lost or alone, but instead possessing a profound awareness of what is happening. That is the gift of the Infinite Light.

Rebbe Nachman also teaches that the Keter manifests its light by pushing a person backwards after they move forward to connect with it. In Kabbalah, this process is known as mateh velo mateh, meaning “reaching and not reaching.”

The reality is that one cannot directly connect to Hashem’s light; such a connection would cause a person to vanish because it is an encounter between the finite and the infinite. Therefore, the experience of clarity through this light must be in an in-and-out format. This concept, though deep, translates practically into gaining clarity during the most frustrating moments in life when you are unsure of what to do or whom to consult. What is needed is not just knowledge but also light and clarity. Having knowledge of many options is one thing, but knowing the right choice is where the light comes in, providing the clarity to make the right decisions.

Rebbe Nachman and Reb Noson elaborate that this was the quality of Aharon, the first High Priest (Kohen Gadol) and the seat of blessing. In every synagogue worldwide, we either perform or mention the birkat Kohanim every morning. These blessings are in the hands of the Kohanim thanks to Aharon, who merited that he and his descendants would become Kohanim.

The Torah explains that Aharon merited this position because, unlike Moshe, he was not jealous. When Moshe initially refused to return to Egypt to lead the Jews out, he suggested that Aharon, who was older and already a prophet, should be chosen instead. Moshe feared that Aharon would be jealous if he, Moshe, took on this role. However, Hashem assured Moshe that Aharon would not be jealous but would come out to greet him with joy in his heart. Rashi comments that Aharon merited the garments of the Kohen Gadol, particularly the Choshen (breastplate), because of the joy he felt in his heart. This joy was the reason he was granted the vestments of the Kohen Gadol, with the breastplate being the most prominent.

Aharon’s joy and lack of jealousy toward his younger brother Moshe were remarkable virtues. Despite being older and already a prophet, Aharon rejoiced in Moshe’s appointment, recognizing that Moshe was the right person for the job. This lack of jealousy and the resulting peace are intrinsically connected to joy.

Rashi explains that when Aharon passed away, everyone mourned him—men and women alike. Why? Because Aharon was able to make peace between people, whether between one person and another, or between a husband and wife. Aharon had the unique ability to bring peace because he was a happy person. His happiness enabled him to connect with people, to speak to them and convince them to let go of grudges and conflicts, whether between business partners or spouses. This quality of Aharon, his joy, made him a beacon of peace.

Due to his simchah (joy), Aharon was chosen to be a Kohen. The main role of the Kohanim, aside from offering sacrifices in the Beit HaMikdash and the Mishkan, is to perform the Birkat Kohanim (priestly blessing), which they do daily. The Zohar and the Arizal speak highly of the significance of Birkat Kohanim, describing the immense blessings that come down through the hands of the Kohanim when they bless the people of Israel. The blessings of the world are channeled through the Birkat Kohanim.

Perception of the Keter requires a push forward and backwards – it’s essential to gaining a unique perception in life!

Now, when Hashem needed to convince Aharon to go up to Mount Hor (Hor HaHar) to pass away, He instructed Moshe Rabbeinu to tell Aharon, “Fortunate are you, Aharon, to see your crown (Keter Kehuna) given to your son, something I myself will not merit.” This demonstrates that Aharon’s status is considered a crown (Keter). Aharon’s position as the initiator of joy, leading to the Kohanim being the source of blessings, ultimately results in the Keter.

Aharon would be privileged to hand over this crown to his son Elazar, who would become the next Kohen Gadol. This aligns with Rebbe Nachman’s teaching that experiencing the Keter involves a process called “Matei ve’lo Matei,” meaning “reaching and not reaching.”

The Midrash, as quoted by the Siftei Kohen on the Torah, describes miraculous events during the undressing of Aharon and the dressing of Elazar. In verse 28, it says, “Take Aharon and Elazar, his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor. Undress Aharon of his garments and dress Elazar, his son, with them. Then Aharon will be gathered in and die there.” The Midrash notes a redundancy in the verse: it says to undress Aharon and then specifies his clothing. The verse could have simply said, “undress Aharon of his garments,” but it goes into greater detail.

This redundancy emphasizes the miraculous nature of the transition. The transfer of the high priestly garments from Aharon to Elazar was not just a physical act but a profound spiritual event, signifying the passing of the Keter Kehuna (crown of the priesthood) and the continuity of Aharon’s legacy through his son.

The Midrash highlights that there were great miracles involved in the process of transferring Aharon’s garments to Elazar. Typically, when dressing, one dons first the undergarments, followed by the outer garments. However, in this instance, as Aharon was removing his outer vestments, he was simultaneously dressing Elazar. This sequence defies the natural order since the outer garments were put on first, before the inner ones.

Aharon took off his outer me’il (robe) of the ephod and dressed it onto Elazar, even though there was nothing underneath yet. The Midrash explains that this miraculous process allowed the undergarments to be put on after the outer garments were already in place. This sequence involved multiple miracles, or “nisei nisim,” as it seemed impossible to insert the undergarments under the already-worn outer garments.

The Torah specifies that this is how the transfer had to be done. The first outer garment of Aharon had to be placed on Elazar first. The Siftei Kohen notes that the additional alephs in this verse indicate the miraculous nature of the process. In verse 28, it states, “Vayafshet Moshe et Aharon et b’gadav vayalbesh otam et Elazar b’no vayamat Aharon sham berosh hahar” (And Moshe undressed Aharon of his garments and dressed Elazar his son with them, and Aharon died there on top of the mountain).

The Siftei Kohen notes that the additional words in the verse contain six alephs: “Vayfshet Moshe et” (aleph number one), “Aharon” (aleph number two), “et” (aleph number three), Begadav v’yalbesh “otam” (aleph number four), “et” (aleph number five) “Elazar” (aleph number six). These six alephs correspond to the six garments that were miraculously put on in reverse order. The tzitz and the hat of the Kohen Gadol, which could be put on last without issue, are excluded. In total, the Kohen Gadol had eight garments, and six of them were involved in the miracle.

The Siftei Kohen explains that the six garments involved in the miracle are hinted at by these six alephs. The letter aleph, when reversed, spells “pele,” which means wonder or miracle. Rebbe Nachman and Kabbalistic teachings describe “pele ” as also referring to the level of the Keter. To experience the light of the Keter, it must be in a “matei ve’lo matei” manner—reaching and not reaching, forward and backward momentum.

In the context of Aharon and Elazar, Aharon was taking off his vestments while they were simultaneously being placed on Elazar. This represents the forward and backward movement. Aharon, preparing to leave this world, could not be buried with the sacred vestments, which were reserved for the service in the Beit HaMikdash and the Mishkan. Therefore, as Aharon removed his garments, he was moving forward towards merging with the Infinite Light. For Elazar, putting on the vestments in reverse order was a “lo matei”—a backward movement that defies logic. The Midrash describes this as “nisei nisim” (outstanding miracles).

The process of removing Aharon’s garments and dressing Elazar backward teaches that reaching the Keter Kehuna, the crown of the priesthood, involves a forward and backward momentum. This counterintuitive process illustrates that perceiving the Infinite Light specifically occurs when there is a pushback. The miraculous transfer of the garments in reverse order symbolizes the supernatural aspect of this transition.

This serves as a moral lesson for us all: with simchah (joy), we attain brachah (blessing). Choosing the blessing of knowing Hashem, coupled with emunah (faith), allows a person to perceive the Keter. The way the Keter operates, pushing a person backward before and after moving forward, is essential to gaining a unique perception in life. 

This article also appears on the BRI breslov.org website: https://breslov.org/the-crown-of-the-kohanim/

For a video presentation of this article: https://youtu.be/698tSeRZElo


~~~

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Shabbat Shalom

Meir Elkabas

@: breslovtherapy@gmail.com

WhatsApp: +1-732-800-1863



The Light and Reward of a Mitzvah - True Delight

 BH


If you have been inspired by this class/lecture please share it with your friends. Thank you. Likutey Halakhot, Orach Chaim, Nefilat Apayim #4 014-2 Based on Likutey Moharan lesson 24 The light and delight of a mitzvah is so great - shining in all the worlds - that if the atheists would see it they would definitely throw away everything and do it - but the only way to do mitzvot with joy is through Emunah which they don't have, etc.

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The Compassionate Gift of a Settled Mind

 BH


If you have been inspired by this class/lecture please share it with your friends. Thank you. Likutey Tefilot #24 007

In this section Reb Noson expresses the abundant Divine compassion needed to reach a settled and composed mind, and how that leads to an abundance of bounty, holiness and purity, which then allow a person to tap into the true power of a organized and settled mind - how the mind must be protected and saved from impurity and evil etc.

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Yearning and Friendship Breaks the Barriers

 BH


If you have been inspired by this class/lecture please share it with your friends. Thank you. Alim LiTerufah - Letter #31e

Letter written while Reb Noson was writing his discourse - Likutey Halakhot, Even HaEzer, Ishut #4 based on Likutey Moharan lesson 24. Reb Noson's yearning and love to write to his son, even at the expense of other seemingly greater devotions - the great bond and friendship between Reb Noson and his son - Reb Shimshon and the story behind his devotion to Reb Noson - etc.. Follow us: 

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Friday, July 5, 2024

Parshat Korach - Emunah Comes First

 BH


This week’s Parshah is Korach. It’s truly amazing—we read it every year and are still shocked: how could people oppose Moshe Rabbeinu? Today, we all seem to believe in Moshe Rabbeinu. Any Jew who observes even minimally the Torah, mitzvot, and Shabbat surely stands with Moshe Rabbeinu. The perennial question remains about Korach: how could someone as great as him oppose Moshe Rabbeinu? Where does this audacity come from? How could he deny that Moshe Rabbeinu led the exodus from Egypt, split the Red Sea with his staff, and was instrumental in the miracles at Mount Sinai, including receiving the Torah for 40 days and nights?

Reb Noson delves deeply into this issue in several places. Essentially, it boils down to this: every Jew operates on two levels: of faith—emunah, which is blind faith, and sekhel, which involves intellectual understanding. As active Jews, we engage with both: we apply intellect when learning Torah, delving into the Gemara, Chumash, Midrash, and halacha, etc., seeking to comprehend their intricacies. But also, we exercise pure and simple Faith, following the instructions with complete belief. Yet, the question remains: what takes precedence? What should be foremost in our minds? Judaism emphasizes that emunah must come first, with intellect serving as its companion. When a person studies Gemara, their subconscious belief underpins every word of Rashi, Tosfot, Rosh, Rif, Ran, or any other commentary. Similarly, when studying Chumash and Rashi, the foundational belief in every word guides their understanding. The goal is not to challenge or deny, but to deepen understanding within the framework of faith.

This is where a person practices what’s called Tzidkut, also known as faith in the Tzaddikim—faith in the sages who transmit the Torah to us. We firmly believe that Moshe Rabbeinu received the Torah directly from Hashem, word-for-word. The five books of Moshe Rabbeinu, Tehillim by King David, the Mishnah compiled by Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and Rav Ashi, the Gemara, Midrashim, the Zohar by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, and later works by figures like the Arizal, the Ba’al Shem Tov, and Rebbe Nachman—all these, we believe in. They wrote, and we have emunah, unwavering faith in them and what they transmitted. Then, we seek to apply intellect to understand them.

The flaw arises when a person reverses this order. Reb Noson explains that one should first act out of faith, seeking understanding and growth thereafter, but always rooted in emunah. This principle is hinted at in the phrase Na’aseh VeNishma. The Jewish people are praised for accepting the Torah with “Na’aseh VeNishma,” meaning “we will do and we will hear” (understand). What’s the praise in this order? What’s so remarkable that they said “Na’aseh VeNishma” and not “Nishma VeNa’aseh”? It signifies their readiness to act first, even without full understanding. If Hashem commands Tefillin, we wear Tefillin; if Shabbat observance is required, we observe Shabbat—no questions asked. This is Na’aseh. Subsequently, we strive to understand—this is Nishma. Rebbe Nachman and Reb Noson term this approach as “T’zeL’”: first Tzaddik (righteousness, faith in the sages), then Lamdan (learning and understanding). First, we act in righteousness, guided by emunah, and then we engage in learning.

In contrast, there are those who reverse this approach: they insist on understanding first. They want to study the Torah and dissect every detail before committing to practice. This is Lamdan first, seeking understanding before faith. They decide to believe only after thorough study, which Rebbe Nachman abbreviates as “L’eT’z” (Lamdan, Tzaddik). Such an approach, delaying commitment until full intellectual satisfaction, mocks the simplicity and directness of emunah in Hashem, Torah, and the Tzaddikim. It places learning above faith, which Rebbe Nachman critiques as being akin to a “Letz,” someone who mocks the straightforward path of emunah, and is also a mockery in himself.

Reb Noson elucidates that this was Korach’s fundamental flaw. He could not accept with emunah the role he was assigned within the tribe of Kehat, over the prestigious positions held by his uncles and relatives as Nesi’im (leaders) of the tribes of Shevet Levi within the larger tribe of Levi. Korach struggled with his perceived low status, feeling disrespected and undervalued. His response was to challenge and attempt to uproot the entire hierarchy.

Korach and his assembly said to Moshe and Aharon, ‘You have gone too far! All the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. So why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?'” (Numbers 16:3). Rashi explains that they all heard the Divine words at Mount Sinai spoken by Hashem Himself, not just Moshe and Aharon. Therefore, Korach questioned why Moshe and Aharon assumed leadership over the entire community when everyone present had heard Hashem’s words and bore the Divine Presence.

Korach’s approach was fundamentally one of rationalization, rather than emunah. Instead of accepting with simple faith that Moshe Rabbeinu was chosen by Hashem, Korach sought to argue his case logically. Even though the Torah clearly depicts how Moshe did not appoint Aaron as Kohen Gadol out of personal favoritism, but because Hashem commanded it, Korach remained unconvinced. He questioned why Moshe, as leader, also elevated his brother, Aaron, to such a high position. All of Korach’s arguments were rooted in intellectual reasoning, attempting to undermine Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership.

The core issue here, Reb Noson explains, is that Korach placed “lamdan,” scholarly argumentation, ahead of emunah. This reversal was Korach’s flaw which led to the severe consequences outlined in this week’s Parshah. The earth opening up and swallowing Korach and his followers, an unprecedented punishment, underscores the gravity of diminishing emunah. Those who aligned themselves with Korach’s dissenting view suffered the same fate, emphasizing the danger of deviating from faith.

Emunah, Reb Noson emphasizes, must always come first. It is foundational and non-negotiable. If a person relies solely on their intellect without grounding their actions in emunah, they are inviting severe consequences. Emunah precedes everything else; without it, one risks grave spiritual peril.

Rebbe Nachman, in Likutey Moharan lesson 24, emphasizes that the key to prioritizing emunah over intellect is cultivating joy (simcha) in performing mitzvot. The Midrash highlights that Korach’s rebellion stemmed from sadness and humiliation. During the Levites’ inauguration, they were required to shave all their hair, including eyebrows, eyelids, beard, and peyos. When Korach returned home shaven, his wife ridiculed him, triggering his feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. This emotional turmoil, the Midrash suggests, fueled Korach’s dissent.

Had Korach embraced simcha in fulfilling Hashem’s will and accepted his role without resentment, his path might have been different. Emunah and simcha are intertwined—if one has joy in performing mitzvot, it reflects a deep-rooted faith, and vice versa. Korach’s downfall lay in lacking this essential connection.

Despite Korach’s stature as a Torah scholar and his wealth, his deficiency in emunah and simcha led to his tragic end. The Torah underscores the severity of Korach’s punishment to caution against prioritizing intellectual pursuits over emunah. Such an approach risks spiritual loss.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that cultivating simcha is pivotal in strengthening emunah. Happiness awakens the dormant emunah within every Jew, inherent in their spiritual DNA. Building strong emunah ensures that intellectual pursuits in Torah study enrich rather than diminish faith. Treating emunah and simcha as inferior is akin to Korach’s misguided attitude—a stance that Rebbe Nachman likens to being a “Letz,” a mocker. Instead, we should strive to be “Tzel”—prioritizing emunah (Tzaddik) before intellectual pursuits (Lamdan)—to dwell in the shade (Tzel) of Hashem’s guidance and protection.

(This article also appears in the BRI breslov.org website: https://breslov.org/the-wrong-lamdan/)

For a video presentation of this article: https://youtu.be/659ZgTJutWA


Shabbat Shalom Umevorach,
Meir Elkabas