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Der Alte Weg Chassidus

The RANBaCH Interview with Journal Mitzva

By the RANBaCH (Shlit"a) © 19th of Kislev, 5773 (July 02, 2012)
There is a well-known comment of the Kabbalist Arizal: “Yom Kippurim, is KaPurim – The Day of Atonement is like Purim.” What lesson can we learn from this for the entire year?

On Purim the Jewish people were saved from genocide at the hands of the nations and the descendents of Amalek. Mordechai represents the Divine Aspects of Judgment and Queen Esther represents the aspects of Mercy (the Shechinah). The Jewish people merited judgment because of their actions leading to the exile. When the judgment came, the people turned back to HaShem bringing them under the attributes of Mercy and the protection of the Shechinah. This is in the aspect of Sotah (47a) and Sanhedrin (106b) "… the left hand should push way and the right hand should draw near."

Yom Kippur represents these same concepts. We merit judgment, but because we have “afflicted our souls” we come under the Wings of the Shechinah. (Vayikra 16: 29 “And it shall be a statute for ever unto you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and shall do no manner of work, the home-born, or the stranger that sojourneth among you.”)

Hence, at the end of Yom Kippur we immediately move into the joy of Succot buy starting the construction of the Sukkah.

The lesson for today is the very same as it has been all our days; We cannot fall so far from HaShem that we cannot return. As it says in Tehillim 139: 8 “If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in the nether-world, behold, Thou art there.”

What thoughts and deeds can help a person to attain true devekut to God?
Devekut, or “Clinging On” to G-d is a state of awareness. It is understanding that HaShem is everywhere and in everything. When one comes to that understanding and awareness, the veil is partially lifted from before our eyes and we see the wonder that is all around us. We realize that every person and every event is placed before us to give us a choice. We can act as a light, or we can diminish the light with our actions. We can raise sparks to HaShem, or give them over to the shells of the kelipah.

This is something that takes time. It starts with dedication to the study of Torah and the observance of the mitzvot. When one has begun to achieve Devekut, they will wrap the Tefillin and feel the energy and connection to the upper realms; like an electrical extension cord. They will say the Amidah and be amazed at the words that they are saying and hearing. They will end their prayers in complete astonishment that they have survived the experience.

What is the best way to overcome the tendency to think negative thoughts exactly when we are going to pray?
It is not possible to eliminate negative thoughts during prayer; this is as it is intended. For man in this corporal existence, the Satan will always be there to bring these negative thoughts to our minds as we are trying to achieve attachment. Every act of man has a touch of evil within it. This is the constant opposition that perfects the soul though many transmigrations. We pray because we “have” to. We perform a good deed because we know there is reward in doing so. Only at the level of the Tzaddik does one perform the mitzvot for the pure joy of performing the mitzvot and the opportunity to perform another with no expectation beyond that.

However, there is also blessing in these negative thoughts. When we can put them aside during our prayers and observances of the mitzvot, we are able to rectify the sparks and return them to the Source. They rise up, rather than lay with the shells of the Kelipot.

How can one acquire inner peace? This is something that many people seek and few find. What is the secret of attaining it?
A person can absolutely attain inner peace; the better question is “Should one?” Until the time of Moshiach, the Beit Hamikdash is rebuilt and the nations recognize the One True King of the Universe, a Jew should not have inner peace. The soul of the Jew should be the barometer of the world. When the Jew is at peace, the world is at peace. If the Jew’s soul is tormented, the world is tormented. The Jew cries for the world.
In order to increase our ability to control our negative impulses, how can we combat them if there is an expert in trick, the yetzer hara?
Have you ever noticed that one magician (for lack of a better term) is never surprised by the tricks of another? Why is that? Simple, he already knows the how the trick is done, or can figure it out for himself. The same is true with the yetzer hara. If we study Torah to the various levels, we understand how the yetzer hara works. Once we know how it works, the easier it is for us to avoid those situations that bring such impulses to the surface.
The Sages (Bava Metzia 59a) say that one who humiliates another person in other people’s presence loses his share in the afterlife. Why this is considered such a serious offense? In our society, they said that one need to have authority to resolve the things and sometimes this authority sounds like arrogance.
This all goes to the question on Lashon Hara. Regardless of whether the words or actions are right or wrong, they cannot be taken back. Like the feathers of a pillow scattered to the wind, the damage cannot be repaired and made like it was before; all the feathers can never be recovered.

Who heard it? Who saw it? Who caused to be repeated? How many sins has one caused by the act? What has one stolen by the act; the other person’s livelihood, their reputation? It does not only damage the one to whom it is directed, but to their family, their friends, their neighbors, and on and on it goes.

My dear friend, Rabbi Wyckoff said (paraphrased) “Lashon Hara is the hardest of all the mitzvot to keep. Almost everyone breaks it at one time or another.” Lashon Hara is like the arrow shot into the air, it cannot be brought back and can kill indiscriminately; even without intent. This is why Lashon Hara is said to be worse than murder.

The Chofetz Chaim wrote extensively on this subject, and I recommend that everyone read his writings to gain a true understanding of the gravity of Lashon Hara.

This is a particular problem in this day and age. The voyeurism of today’s so-called entertainment and news is far worse than at any other time in history. It is a sad state of the world that so many take delight in the humiliation of others for nothing more than sheer entertainment.

Is there any way to a person grow spiritually from seeing animals, nature? As God created them, the events around us and our appreciation for them is a manner of the hidden Hand of the Creator to teach us something?
Everything we see, hear, touch or feel can be an opportunity for spiritual growth and attachment. Rabbi Nosson of Nemirov wrote an entire dissertation on the wonders of a watch.

Let us take the example of the dog. A Rabbi should have a good-natured and friendly dog.

Why should a Rabbi have a dog?

A dog reminds the Rabbi of how to approach his relationship with G-d. Just as the dog reacts with excitement to the approach of a kind master, so should the Rabbi react with excitement to his relationship with HaShem.

A dog waits for its master impatiently and listens carefully for his approach. When its master approaches, the dog jumps and wags its tale with joy and running to and fro almost unable to contain its excitement. The dog announces its master's presence with exuberant barks and playful growling as if to say, "I have been waiting so long to be with you, and my entire being dances at your arrival". Even when its master has walked out of the room for a short time, the dog will treat its master's reappearance as if it had not seen him in hours.

Even when the dog is corrected by its master, it shows great sorrow at the master's displeasure, however stays close by, not wanting to be out of sight of the master. Once the master's displeasure has abated, the dog runs to regain its place at the master's side.

Through the dog's relationship to its master we learn how to relate to the King of the Universe. Each day we should dance and sing with great joy at prayer, knowing that we will be in the presence of our Master. We should run with great enthusiasm at the opportunity to perform His mitzvot. We should linger at the Master's side; hesitating to leave. We should reflect with sorrow at out failings in our duties to HaShem, but remembering that HaShem is always ready to call us back to His side.

I will tell you a word and you tell me what comes in your mind: a)The Zohar, b)Likutey Moharan, c)Mashiach ? The Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory, has said people need to have “sincerity” everything he or she does such as Sincere Faith, Sincere Kindness, Sincere Interpretations, etc. Is sincerity related to Truth to serve God properly?
Sincerity is the result of simplicity. Take away sophistication, simplicity is what is left. If you serve HaShem in simplicity, then everything you do will be with sincerity. This does not mean one should not study the great works. The Besht (zt”l) was well versed in Torah, Talmud and Kabbalah, yet he served HaShem in joy, simplicity and sincerity.
Rabbenu, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, in his holy ways in serving God, he teaches us “No sophistication is needed in serving God, only simplicity, sincerity and faith”. (Sichot Haran#101) How can we use these teachings in a daily base?
I believe this question could be directly coupled with the previous one on sincerity. Rebbe Nachman (zt”l) was a master story teller. How much simpler can one teach than to tell stories? I think the best way to explain this is by the words of the Besht from Haavat Harivash:

“On my sixteenth birthday, the eighteenth of Elul 5474, I was in a small village. The innkeeper was a Jew of quintessential simplicity. He knew his prayers only with difficulty -- he had no idea what the words meant. But he had a great awe of heaven and for everything that would occur to him he would comment, "Blessed be He, and may He be blessed for ever and ever" The innkeeper's wife and partner had a different saying: "Blessed be His Holy Name".

On that day, I went to meditate in solitude in the pasture, as had been taught by the sages before us, that on your birthday you should meditate alone for a period of time. In my meditations I recited Psalms and concentrated on the yichudim of the divine names.

As I was immersed in this, I had lost awareness of my surroundings. Suddenly, I beheld Elijah the Prophet -- and a smile was drawn over his lips. I was very amazed that I should merit a revelation of Elijah the Prophet while alone. When I was with the tzaddik Rabbi Meir, and also with others of the hidden tzaddikim I had the fortune to see Elijah the Prophet. But to be privileged to this while alone -- this was the very first time and I was very amazed. Understandably, I was unable to interpret the smile on Elijah's face.

And this is what he said to me:

"Behold, you are struggling with great effort to focus your mind upon the divine names that extend from the verses of psalms that David, King of Israel, composed. But Aaron Shlomo the innkeeper and Zlota his wife are ignorant of the yichudim of divine names that extend from "Blessed be He, and may He be blessed for ever and ever" that the innkeeper recites and "Blessed be His Holy Name" that she recites -- yet these yichudim make a storm throughout all the worlds far beyond the yichudim of Divine Names that the great tzaddikim can create."

Then, Elijah the Prophet told me about the pleasure G-d takes, so to speak, from the praise and thanksgiving of the men, women and children that praise the Holy One Blessed be He -- especially when the praise and thanks comes from simple people, and most specifically when it is ongoing, continual praise -- for then they are continuously bonded with G-d, blessed be He, with pure faith and sincerity of heart.

From that time on I took upon myself a path in the service of G-d to bring men, women and children to say words of praise to G-d. I would always ask them about their health, the health of their children, about their material welfare -- and they would answer me with different words of praise for the Holy One, blessed be He -- each one in his or her own way.”

What does it mean to experience great love and awe for the Almighty when one is a non-Jew devoted to Torah Kabbalah (Jewish Tradition)?
Let me make a very important point here about Kabbalah. Kabbalah is a very dangerous thing for anyone, but especially for the non-Jew. The dangers are most clearly represented in the story of the four who entered Pardes. One died on the spot, one went mad, one became a heretic and only one came away whole – but not completely. His life was shortened and died in great pain. These were great Rabbonim and scholars, and yet they were all damaged by the study. This is my warning!

With that said, the non-Jew is only obligated to the seven Noachide Laws, but is free to take on any other mitzvot as they choose. However, once they pick up the mantle of a mitzvah, they may not set it down at a later time.

So, how does one attain “great love and awe”? The answer is surprisingly simple and was delineated in the Talmud: "These are the things for which a person enjoys the dividends in this world while the principal remains for the person to enjoy in the world to come. They are: honoring parents, loving deeds of kindness, and making peace between one person and another, but the study of the Torah is equal to them all." (Talmud Shabbat 127a). Why? As Rabbi Isaacs said “Because it leads to them all.”

Could you send a special message to our readers?
Today it is so very important to take every opportunity for joy. Joy, singing, dancing and clapping all mitigate harsh judgment. We must reach out to all Jews and draw them close. As we all walk in a world of great darkness, we must become that “light of the nations” (Yishayahu 42: 6).

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