Translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
When a person realizes that he is on a very low level and far from God, this itself is a reason to feel encouraged. Before this, he was so far from God that he did not even know it. Now at least he knows it, and this itself is a sign that he is drawing closer.
Likutey Moharan II, 68
God takes pride in every individual Jew, even the most minor, even the sinners of Israel , as long as they go by the name of Israel . There is a unique pride that God takes in every single Jew and even in each of his limbs and every single movement he makes. Sometimes a lowly Jew makes a slight movement with his side-curl and God takes great pride in this too!
One should therefore never despair of God's help regardless of any wrong he may have done, because God's love for him will never cease and he can always return to God.
Likutey Moharan I, 17
When a person has spent all his days immersed in materialism and suddenly feels a strong desire to walk in the ways of God, the attribute of Judgment rises up to accuse him. It will not allow him to walk in the ways of God and creates an obstacle. But God loves kindness and hides Himself in the obstacle itself. Someone with understanding looks carefully and discovers God in the very obstacle itself!
Likutey Moharan I, 115
When someone wants to serve God or travel to the true Tzaddik, he is bound to face obstacles. Each person imagines that the obstacles he faces are greater than those facing others and finds it hard to withstand them. But no-one is ever confronted with obstacles that are beyond his ability to overcome if he really wants. The truth is that there is no obstacle at all, because God is present, albeit veiled, in the very obstacle itself.
The greatest of all barriers are those in the mind - when the person is divided from God or from the Tzaddik in his own mind and heart. A person may have come to the Tzaddik despite all the physical obstacles. But if some small doubt about the Tzaddik then arises in his mind, causing his heart to falter, this is the greatest obstacle of all. Similarly, a person encounters many obstacles when he wants to pray. However, if after overcoming them all he is ready to pray but his heart is contorted and turned away from God, this is the greatest obstacle of all.
The Baal Shem Tov told a parable about a king who left a great treasure in a certain place, surrounding it with all kinds of illusory walls. When people came to these walls, they thought they were real and that it would be very hard to break through. Some retreated immediately; others broke through one wall but could not break through the second. A few broke through more walls, but no- one could break through them all. Until the king's son came and said: "I know that all these walls are pure illusions and the truth is that there is no wall at all!" He went forward confidently until he overcame them all.
All the obstacles and temptations standing in the way of true fear of heaven are illusory walls. Be courageous and strong-hearted! All the apparent obstacles, such as financial and other material constraints or opposition from others, will disappear if you are determined and courageous in your quest for God.
Likutey Moharan II, 46
It is impossible to do anything unless you have desire. Even merely to say something, you must first have a desire to speak. Likewise, in order to do something, you must first have the desire to do it.
Therefore when a person needs to perform some holy task, whether it is to visit the Tzaddik or any other holy mission , he is first given the desire to accomplish it.
The strength of the person's desire is created through being confronted with an obstacle. When an Israelite needs to do something in connection with his Judaism, especially when it is something important on which his whole Judaism depends, such as going to the true Tzaddik - he is sent an obstacle. The purpose of the obstacle is to increase his desire to accomplish his task.
This is like showing a small child something he wants and then immediately snatching it from him and hiding it. The child runs after the person, pleading and wanting the thing even more. The child's desire for the object is increased by having it snatched away and hidden. Similarly, we are held back from what we want by obstacles whose only purpose is to increase our desire.
The greater the object of desire, the greater the obstacle! There are three factors involved : the desire itself, the person who has it and the object of his desire. The desire must be strong in proportion to the greatness of its object. When the object of desire is very great, the person needs very strong desire to attain it. He is then confronted with a very great obstacle in order to make his desire all the stronger, because the greater the obstacle, the stronger the desire that is needed to overcome it.
Know therefore that whenever you encounter very great obstacles in any holy pursuit, you should infer from this just how great and precious is the object of your desire. This is why the obstacle is so great.
If your desire is very strong, you will certainly be able to accomplish what you want and bring it from potential to actual. For the main purpose of the obstacle is to strengthen the desire. When the strength of your desire matches the strength of the obstacle, the obstacle becomes surmountable.
Likutey Moharan I, 66
Not a single effort, thought, word or deed or even the slightest gesture is ever wasted when trying to accomplish a holy goal .
When you want to do something holy, at first you are uncertain and confused. You weigh up all the factors, deciding whether or not to do it. Obstacles seem to spring up on every side.
At last you succeed in accomplishing the task. Your every movement, every thought and even the confusion you suffered are registered for good. They are raised on high to be transformed into something very holy and exalted.
Happy is the person who leaps over all the barriers to accomplish a holy task!
Sichot Haran #11
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When a person finally attains a holy goal, all his earlier obstacles become transformed into the most exalted things.
Likutey Halachot, Choshen Mishpat, Nizkey Shchenim 3:8
When a person starts to serve God and draw close to a true Tzaddik, he is often filled with negative thoughts and inner turmoil.
This is like a pot of water which initially seems quite clear, but as soon as it is placed on the fire and starts to boil, all the impurities begin to surface. Someone has to stand there constantly removing the scum and impurities.
At first the water appears perfectly clear, but as it heats up, more and more impurity surfaces. At last, however, when all the impurity is removed, the water is truly pure and clear.
The same is true of a person. Before he starts serving God, good and evil are totally mixed up in him - so much so that the evil and impurity are not even discernible. But when he starts trying to serve God and draw close to a true Tzaddik, he begins the process of cleansing and purification. Each time, more evil and impurities rise to the surface.
Here too one must stand by constantly removing the dirt and impurities as they appear, until in the end the person is truly pure and clear.
Initially a person is totally immersed in the material. When he starts to draw closer to God, it might seem as if it should be possible to remove all this filth and impurity at once. But his mind is so totally mixed up with this mire that if it were to be removed all at once, he could lose his mind with it as well.
One must be very patient until little by little one becomes completely pure.
Sichot Haran #79
Opposition raises and elevates a person. If you face opposition, it is a sign that you want to be a good person. But if things are quiet, it's a sign that your service of God has quietened down!
Netiv Tzaddik 70
When people seek to purify themselves and keep the Torah, they often feel overwhelmed with confusion and frustration. They encounter great obstacles in their path and they are uncertain what to do. The more they want to serve God, the harder it seems.
Know that all your efforts to do the right thing are very precious in God's eyes even if you do not achieve your goal. All your efforts are counted as sacrifices.
Trying to pray is like offering a sacrifice. "For Your sake we are killed every day, we are counted like sheep for the slaughter" (Psalms 44:23) . This verse speaks of prayer as a sacrifice. When a person wants to pray, he encounters many distractions. Even so, he gives himself over completely to his prayers, making every effort to focus all his thoughts on the words he is saying and their meaning. Even if his prayers are not perfect, his very efforts are a sacrifice, as it says: "For Your sake we are killed every day."
The same applies to all acts of service of God. You may desire to perfect yourself but find you cannot do so completely. Even so, all your pain and efforts are not wasted. They all count as offerings to God: "For Your sake we are killed every day, we are counted like sheep for the slaughter."
You should therefore always do your part and make every effort to serve God as best as you can. What is up to you, do with all your might. Keep trying even if all your efforts seem to be frustrated and all your attempts seem to be in vain. Do everything in your power and God will do what is good in His eyes.
Sichot Haran #12
"The living creatures were running and returning " (Ezekiel 1:14 ) .
If you want to follow the ways of Teshuvah and return to God, you need to acquire two different skills: the first is the ability to "run forward" at times of spiritual ascent; the second is the knowledge of how to "return" when you encounter a setback . These two skills correspond to how the angels in the prophetic vision were " running and returning " (Ezekiel 1:14 ) .
Whether you feel you are advancing or not, or even if you feel you are sliding backwards, always stay strong and follow King David's teaching: "If I ascend to heaven , You are there, and if I make hell my bed, behold You are there!" (Psalms 139:8) .
"If I ascend to heaven." If you succeed in rising to some high level, don't stay there and content yourself with what you have achieved. You must have the skill to understand and believe that you are obliged to advance even further. This is the skill of "running forward": "If I ascend to heaven, You are there!"
Conversely, even if you fall in some way, never give up hope. Seek out and entreat God constantly and strengthen yourself as best you can in the place where you find yourself. God is present even in the depths of hell. Even there you can attach yourself to God: ".and if I make hell my bed, behold You are there!" This is the skill of "returning".
Only through the acquisition of these two skills can you go in the ways of Teshuvah.
Likutey Moharan I, 6
When the time comes for a person to rise from one level to the next, he must first experience a fall. The whole purpose of the fall is to prepare for the ascent. Try to understand this and you will realize how determined you must be in order to serve God. No matter how far you fall, never allow yourself to be discouraged. Remain firm and resolute and pay no attention to the fall at all, because in the end it will be transformed into a great ascent. This is its whole purpose.
This applies to all the different ways one can fall. Each person always thinks that his own situation is so bad that this does not apply to him. People imagine it applies only to those on very exalted levels who are continually advancing from level to level. But you should realize that it holds true even for those on the lowest of levels, because God is good to all.
Likutey Moharan I, 22
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Each time a person emerges from one level in order to rise to the next, the unholy forces attack him again in the form of desires and fantasies, strange thoughts, mental confusion, distractions and all kinds of other obstacles. They stand in array against him, refusing to let him enter the gates of holiness.
Many sincere people become highly discouraged when they find themselves suddenly confronted by all these desires and obstacles. They start to think that they must have fallen from their previous level because for some time they have not experienced them with the same intensity - since they were dormant.
When this happens, you must understand that what you are experiencing is not a fall. The time has come for you to advance from one level to the next. This is why these same old desires and obstacles have reared their heads again. Whenever this happens, it takes great strength and courage not to lose hope but to overcome all the desires and obstacles again.
Likutey Moharan I, 25
When a person falls from his level he should know that this is sent from Heaven.
The purpose of the apparent rejection is to draw him closer. The reason for the fall is to spur the person to make even greater efforts to draw closer to God.
The thing to do is to make an entirely new start. Start serving God as if you had never started in your whole life. This is one of the most basic principles of serving God. We must literally begin all over again every day.
Likutey Moharan I, 261
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One of the great rules in serving God is: Never allow yourself to fall completely.
Even if you feel you have failed in some devotion or prayed without proper attention or fallen in some other way, you must still try to keep as strong as you can and make a whole new start. Act as if today you are only beginning to serve God. No matter how many times you fall, pick yourself up and start again. Do this over and over again. Otherwise you will never come close to God.
Pull yourself to God with all your strength, regardless of whether you go up or down. No matter how low you fall, make a determined effort to yearn and long to draw closer to God. Cry out, pray and plead with God! Keep trying to do whatever you can to serve God with joy. Without this inner determination, you will never be able truly to approach God.
Keep on trying and trying until you are unable to do anything but serve God at all times every day of your life, even without any guarantee of a reward. Sometimes you may think you are so far from God that you will have no reward in the world to come. Even so, you must be willing to serve Him as best as you can even without a reward.
Even if you think you are bound to go to hell, you must still do your part in serving God as best as you can. Grab a mitzvah! Learn some Torah! Say a prayer. and God will do what is good in His eyes.
It is impossible to come to true service of God without facing all these trials. Every time you fall, you must make a determined effort to pick yourself up and start all over again - even many times each day - until eventually you will advance steadily in God's ways. Amen.
Sichot Haran #48
"Be strong and courageous, all who hope in God" (Psalms 31:25) .
Even if you feel you have failed to reach true holiness or devotion, you can still hope . And this way you can be "strong and courageous". No matter what happens, don't let anything discourage you.
Be sure also to encourage your friends not to become disheartened, no matter what happens. You may be all too aware of your own failings, but this should not prevent you from encouraging others. It is easier to inspire others than to strengthen yourself, for "A prisoner cannot free himself" ( Berachot 5b) .
Nothing is worse than giving in to discouragement. In time of war, the Torah says: "Do not be afraid and do not be terrified" (Deuteronomy 20:3) . The rabbis explained: "Do not be afraid." - "of the hordes of troops," ".and do not be terrified" - "of the sound of the war horns" ( Sotah 42a) .
Whoever wants to enter the service of God must endure all this, for he will face a multitude of fearsome struggles - "the hordes of troops and the sound of the war horns". You must stand firm. Never surrender your ground. Trust that God will help you and don't turn aside from Him.
"Retreat is the beginning of defeat" (Sotah 44b) . In any case, where can you go to escape from God? "Where can I flee from You? If I rise to heaven, You are there; if I descend to Hell - You are there too!" (Psalms 139: 6- 7) . For God is everywhere.
You must be very stubborn in serving God.
And even if you feel that you yourself are far from God, be sure not to discourage others. Do the very opposite: strengthen them in every way possible. Speak to them with words that restore the soul. By doing so, you too will eventually come back to serving God.
Sichot Haran #120
There are people who draw close to God but later fall away. Even so, the short time they serve God is very precious in His eyes no matter what happens later.
"You have heartened Me with one of your eyes" (Song of Songs 4:9) .
In this verse, God addresses the Jewish people, recalling their acceptance of the Torah. The Midrash asks: "Why does the verse say, 'with one of your eyes'? The answer is because the other eye was already looking at the Golden Calf!"
At the very time when they accepted the Torah, they already had ideas of going astray! Yet even the short time they were close to God was still very dear to Him, and this is why He says, "You have heartened Me with one of your eyes."
Sichot Haran #123
The places that seem lowest of all and furthest from God actually contain the most exalted life force of all, albeit concealed: namely the "secrets of Torah". One who has fallen very far should therefore understand that in the very place in which he finds himself he can still draw close to God because of the exalted life force that is concealed there. When he succeeds in returning to God, exalted levels of Torah will be revealed through him. These are the "secrets of Torah".
Likutey Moharan I, 56
There are people who sink very low indeed and fall into all kinds of doubts and even have questions about God Himself. Nevertheless, the whole purpose of their falling is for them to rise up afterwards. The fall is for the sake of the ascent.
For the root of the entire creation is glory. Whatever God has created, He has done so only for His glory. "Everything that is called by My Name. I have created for My glory..." (Isaiah 43:7) . It follows that His glory is the root of the entire creation . And although everything is a unity, there are nevertheless gradations within creation. Each individual portion of creation contains its own unique glory, which is the root of that portion. Each of the ten utterances with which the world was created has its own unique glory, which is its root, because glory is the root of everything. Each utterance is a garment expressing God's glory, for "the whole earth is full of His glory!" (Isaiah 6:3).
What about sin and evil? God's glory is not present there, for "I will not give My glory to another" (Isaiah 42:8) . There is a limit that prevents the glory from spreading there. Although "the whole earth is full of His glory", there is nevertheless a limit that prevents it from spreading to the "outside places", which are beyond the bounds of holiness - for "I will not give My glory to another".
But know that in spite of this, even the "filthy places" and even idolatrous temples necessarily derive their life-force from God. But know that they receive it from the Hidden Utterance of Bereishit , "In the beginning" (Genesis 1:1) . This utterance includes all the others, and all of them derive their vitality from it. The glory of the Hidden Utterance is concealed to the ultimate degree. It is from there that they derive their life-force. For it is impossible for the "filthy places" to receive their vitality from the revealed utterances, because "I will not give My glory to another". Only from the Hidden Utterance, which is concealed to the ultimate degree, can they receive vitality. It is impossible to understand this with human reason, and we are not permitted to delve into it.
When a person sinks to these "filthy places", he is filled with doubts, questions and confusion. But when he starts examining himself and sees how far he is from God's glory and begins asking and searching, Ayeh? - " Where is the place of God's glory?" - this is the essence of the solution. He sees for himself that , having sunk to such places, he is far from God's glory . When he asks Ayeh? - "Where?" - this is his way to rise up and transform his fall into a great ascent. For the purpose of the descent is to lead to an ascent.
Ayeh? -"Where is the place of His glory?" This alludes to the exalted glory of the highest utterance, Bereishit , which is the source of the life-force of these places. Therefore when a person searches in earnest, Ayeh? - "Where is the place of His glory?" - this itself brings him back and he rises to the highest glory, Ayeh , which because of its great concealment gives life to these places. Having fallen there, by then searching Ayeh? - "Where is the place of His glory?" - he returns and connects himself to this exalted place, injecting new vitality into his very fall, and he can then rise to the most exalted heights.
The essence of Teshuvah is an earnest search for God's glory. When a person sees that he is far from God's glory , he yearns for it. He asks, labors and toils: Ayeh? - "Where is the place of His glory?" This itself is his answer, his repentance and his remedy. Understand this well.
"If someone asks you, 'Where is your God?' tell him, 'In the great city of Rome '" ( Yerushalmi Taanit 1) . For even in places filled with idols and cults, God is present, albeit hidden. If you sink to such places, God forbid, as soon as you begin to search Ayeh? - "Where is the place of His glory" - you draw life for yourself from the life-force of holiness. The vitality of the unholy forces, the "husks", derives only from the concealment, from the fact that God is so totally hidden that there is no awareness of Him at all. But as soon as you begin to search, "Where is the place of His glory?" this is an indication that you know that God exists, even though He is hidden, and this is why you are searching Ayeh? - "Where is the place of His glory?"
This is how you can give yourself new life in the place to which you have sunk. This is because Ayeh is the Hidden Utterance from which all things derive their vitality. The unholy "husks" are nourished by the concealment, but you now vitalize yourself with the life-force of holiness in the very place to which you have sunk - by earnestly searching Ayeh? - "Where is the place of His glory?" Afterwards you can lift yourself from there completely and reach holiness itself in a place where God's glory is revealed. For the essence of holiness is that God's glory should be revealed. Blessed be God forever. Amen. Amen.
Likutey Moharan II, 12
When a person makes a start and tries to bring himself closer to God, he usually experiences a feeling of rejection. It is as if forces beyond his control are trying to prevent him from entering God's service. Yet in actual fact this apparent rejection is nothing but a way of bringing him closer. But it takes tremendous determination not to become discouraged when you see that the days and years are passing and in spite of all your efforts to draw closer, you are still far away.
You may feel you have not even begun to enter the gates of holiness. You may see yourself as still being coarsely materialistic and feel that your mind is confused. No matter what you try to do to serve God, it seems as if the evil forces will not allow you to succeed. You may start thinking that God is paying no attention whatever, as if He has no interest in your devotions. You keep calling out to Him, pleading with Him to help you. Yet you feel as far away as ever.
It takes tremendous determination to overcome all this. The key is to ignore all the discouragement. The truth is that all this apparent rejection has no other purpose than to bring you closer. All the Tzaddikim have had to endure this, as we know from their personal testimony. They too felt that God had no interest in them, because they saw how long they had been searching, putting in hard work and effort, yet they were still far away. If they had not determinedly ignored these feelings, they would have remained where they were in the first place and would never have achieved what they did.
My dear friend and brother: the basic rule is to keep firm and be strong. Try with all your strength to be persistent in your devotions. Pay no attention to all these discouraging thoughts. And if you are very far from God and you feel that your every movement must be a blemish in God's eyes, you should know that on the contrary, if someone is all that coarse and materialistic, even the slightest motion he makes to try to detach himself from his physicality and turn towards God is very great and precious. If he moves no more than a hairsbreadth in his efforts to purify himself and come closer, that hairsbreadth makes him run thousands and thousands of miles in the worlds above. (See below, p. 354, "The Sad Tzaddik", for further explanation.) If you think about this, it will make you very happy. Indeed you should make a great effort always to be happy, because depression can cause tremendous damage. You should know that as soon as a person wants to start serving God, it is a very grave sin for him to be depressed. Depression comes from the Other Side, which God hates.
In order to serve God, you must be obstinate. On no account should you give up and abandon the practices you have begun. Don't give up in any way, no matter what happens. Remember this well, because you will be in great need of it when you start serving God. You must be very obstinate indeed, holding yourself strong and firm in your place each time the evil forces try to throw you down. This will happen very often. Your task is to continue as best as you can without allowing yourself to fall completely, God forbid.
Inevitably you must encounter all kinds of difficulties and setbacks. You will fall down many times before you can enter the gates of holiness. Even the greatest Tzaddikim have gone through all this. There are cases when a person is already at the gate of holiness, only to slide back because of these difficulties. When a person is close to the gate, the forces of evil try to prevent him from entering. This pushes some people into retreat. That is the way of the Evil One: when he sees a person literally at the gates, he attacks more powerfully than ever. That is why you need to be so strong.
If you want to enter God's service, remember all this very well. Strengthen yourself in every possible way and do what you can to continue with your devotions. Eventually , with God's help , you will surely succeed in entering through the gate. God is overflowing with love and very much wants your devotions. Know that every single effort you make is important. All your attempts to detach yourself even slightly from the material world and draw closer to the spiritual are added together. They will all come to your aid when you really need it , when you are under pressure or in trouble, God forbid.
And know that in life a person has to pass over a very narrow bridge. The main thing is not to be afraid.
Likutey Moharan II, 48
Gevalt!!! Never give up hope! There is no despair.
Likutey Moharan II, 78
Once there was a wealthy man who had a shop where he lived and kept his stock of merchandise. Thieves came and robbed him of his wealth and possessions, and he lost a large part of what he had. But he collected together the remains and was able to put himself back on his feet again. He purchased some more stock and once again became a shopkeeper.
Then more thieves came and robbed him of whatever was left of his previous wealth. Still, he once again gathered together what little he could from the remnants of what was left to him and his wife's jewelry, and he was able to get back on his feet again. He set up a store to provide himself and his household with their livelihood.
Again thieves came and robbed him of whatever was left, and he became so impoverished that his house was completely empty. He went and collected together a miserable sum, bought a few bits and pieces, and went around the villages like the poor tinkers who travel about with bundles of goods, needles, pipes and similar small items. He went from village to village trading needles for chickens and eggs among the gentiles, and this was how he earned the family bread.
One day he was on his way from the villages carrying his small stock and a few items of food when he was set upon by a bandit. The bandit was riding a horse and carrying two enormous bundles. He wanted to rob him and the man began to weep and plead with the bandit. However, he paid no attention and robbed him of the little he had. The man was left with nothing at all, and he wept bitterly. As if his previous troubles had not been enough when he had been stripped of his great wealth! Now they had torn from him even his meager remaining livelihood!
Meanwhile, he noticed that the bandit had fallen from his horse. He was trying to get up, but the horse was standing at his side trampling his head with its hooves. The bandit fell back and died. The man went over to look and saw that the robber had fallen to the ground dead. He opened the robber's bundles, and there he found all the merchandise, wealth and possessions that the bandit had ever stolen from him. He returned to his house in peace with his wealth restored.
One should never despair. A person may be robbed and plundered time and time again, yet he should never despair of God ' s mercy and kindness. In the end the robber will suffer a fall from which he will never rise again, while the one who was robbed will recover all the holiness, goodness and devotion that were stolen from him and return to his wealth and eternal goodness.
Chayey Moharan #97
BACK TO THE ESSENTIAL RABBI NACHMAN HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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