THE WINGS OF THE SUN
Traditional Jewish Healing in Theory and Practice
Sound the Shofar!
Rebbe Nachman's Pathway of Healing
In the same period that he was warning his followers against medicine, Rebbe Nachman was teaching a complete pathway of health and healing through faith, prayer and joy. He gave fullest expression to this healing pathway in his first major Torah discourse after his return to Breslov from Lemberg, "Sound the Shofar - Dominion over the Angels" (Likutey Moharan II, 1). This was given on Rosh Hashanah (September 22) 1808. A complete translation of this discourse together with a full commentary will be given in the current chapter.
As we have seen, for Rebbe Nachman, the key to healing is simchah, joy, which is expressed through the ten kinds of melody. In essence, the ten kinds of melody are ten different basic modes of connection with God through prayer. Prayer is the central theme of "Sound the Shofar - Dominion." Rebbe Nachman tells us that prayer can bring healing without the need for medicines. Through prayer we can channel healing energy into bread and water - our regular food and drink.
This is not to say that the sick person and those around him need merely offer a few prayers - "Please heal x, the son/daughter of y" - and healing will come automatically. For Rebbe Nachman, prayer is a complete pathway of service that must be the central pillar of our lives. Prayer includes not only the fixed daily blessings and prayer services instituted by the Sages, but also our personal outreach to God through the private prayers we offer in our own words and unique style in hisbodedus. We must turn to God for everything we need, major or minor, spiritual or physical. For "prayer is the main way to relate to God and to become attached to Him. Prayer is the gate through which we enter into God's presence and come to know Him" (Likutey Moharan II, 84). "We receive our very life from prayer, as it is written, `Prayer to the God of my life' (Psalms 42:9)" (Likutey Moharan I, 9:1).
Earlier we discussed Rebbe Nachman's teaching on "Why do people get sick?" (Likutey Moharan I, 268). The main idea there is that a person becomes sick because his soul-powers have become weakened through straying from his mission in life. But prayer has the power to restore the soul, which is why it brings healing. Rebbe Nachman teaches that the main work of prayer, especially our private prayers in hisbodedus, is to put our longing and yearning to come closer to God into words - to articulate our desires and good intentions with our lips, speaking about our inadequacies and shortcomings and how we yearn for God to help us overcome them.
"The soul of the Jew is actually formed through the yearning and desire he feels for God and his good intentions to serve Him. Regardless of his level, each individual has a desire to reach a higher level. It is through this yearning that his holy soul is formed. The yearning and longing for something holy are themselves very precious. They are the means by which the soul is brought into being, and it reaches completion through speech" (Likutey Moharan I, 31).
The holy yearnings each Jew has deep in his heart are themselves the "good points" that we must search for in hisbodedus in order to "make melodies" and come to simchah.
Since prayer in this broad sense is the main avenue to genuine healing, a large part of "Sound the Shofar - Dominion" is taken up with the preconditions for prayer. First and foremost we must strive to know God in our very hearts. Mere intellectual knowledge of God's existence is not enough: we must bring our understanding from our heads down into our hearts and feel God's awesome presence, directing our day-to-day lives accordingly.
Our material cravings for wealth, food and sex tend to obscure our awareness of God. We must therefore bring balance into our lives, taking only what we really need from this world. In addition, to attain true prayer, we must cleanse ourselves of all flaws in our faith, purify ourselves of illicit sexual desire, and cultivate respect for other people. Thus for Rebbe Nachman, the path of prayer is a complete way of life, and as such it offers immunity from illness as well as healing if illness strikes.
For Rebbe Nachman, the essential prerequisite for success in the path of prayer is to "bind oneself to the Tzaddik" - to "get oneself a teacher" (Avot 1:6) and to make every effort to put his guidance and teachings into practice. Thus Rebbe Nachman's exploration of prayer as the pathway of healing in "Sound the Shofar - Dominion" comes in the context of a lengthy answer to the question of how we can distinguish the true leaders and teachers of the Jewish People from the false figures who owe their influence to brash self-assertiveness. The search for the true leader is itself a vital part of the quest for healing, since this can only come after pidyon nefesh, redemption of the soul by the Tzaddik.
Dominion over the angels
The essential reason why we need to recognize the true leaders is that we must bind ourselves to them in order to attain our ultimate destiny as Jews. The Jewish People has a central role in the scheme of creation, having been entrusted with the keys to drawing Godly blessing down into all the worlds - through prayer, Torah and mitzvot. Thus Rebbe Nachman opens this discourse with the statement that the ultimate destiny of the Jewish People is to "rule over the angels" - for they are the forces that channel God's blessing to the various parts of creation.
However, "the angels are very jealous of a man who has dominion over them." This jealousy expresses itself in the powerful internal and external obstacles people encounter when trying to serve God. To overcome them, says Rebbe Nachman, one must bind oneself to the roots of the souls of the Jewish People - "Together we stand!" But the only way most people can achieve this is through binding themselves to the leaders of the Jewish People, each of whom has a certain number of souls under his sway.
In "Why do people get sick" Rebbe Nachman teaches that a person may become sick when he strays from his mission in this world, his תכלית (takhlit), while healing comes when he takes the first steps to direct himself to a higher goal. Our takhlit (or "takhlis" in the Ashkenazic pronunciation) is our ultimate goal or purpose in life. An individual's destiny certainly includes the unique mission he or she has in his or her particular life. But as Jews, our ultimate mission is to play our part as members of "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6), ruling over the angels through our prayers, Torah and mitzvot. When we rise to this mission we become true b'ney Adam, children of Adam, the pinnacle of creation. This is the ultimate healing. The takhlit of the Jewish People is the starting point of "Sound the Shofar - Dominion."
How to study this teaching
Newcomers to the study of Rebbe Nachman's discourses in Likutey Moharan should be aware that in most cases they are highly elaborate structures, replete with references from the entire spectrum of biblical, talmudic, midrashic, halakhic and kabbalistic literature. As Rebbe Nachman lays each brick in his structure, introducing the concepts of the discourse one by one, he cites a dazzling variety of proof texts in order to explain the meaning of these concepts and their connection with the other concepts in the discourse. The assumption is that the entire corpus of Torah literature is ultimately a single, unitary divine revelation, and it is therefore valid to cite verses or sayings from one place in order to throw light on the meaning of words and ideas in another.
The freshness, grace and brilliance of Rebbe Nachman's hermeneutics are breathtaking for those with a background in Torah scholarship. However, the breadth of his references, the unfamiliarity of many of his concepts and the subtlety of his arguments can be confusing to new students. In order to clarify the structure of the discourse and throw light on the meaning of central concepts, explanatory material has been inserted throughout the text of the discourse. This material is not part of the original text. To enable the reader to distinguish between the two, the explanatory material appears in italics . In addition to this explanatory material, more detailed commentary is provided in the notes appearing after the text of the discourse. Notes are indicated by ^ and a number linked to the relevant note. To go to the note, click on the number. To return to the text, click the BACK button. The commentary is largely based on three major commentaries on Likutey Moharan: Parpara'ot LeChokhmah, Biur HaLikutim and Torat Nathan. For details of these works, see Sources and Further Reading.
It is suggested that readers wishing to make a serious study of this discourse might start by reading it through fairly rapidly a number of times together with the explanatory material, but without as yet studying the notes or making undue efforts to understand points that seem obscure. Having gained a grasp of the main drift of the discourse as a whole, one might then embark on a more detailed study, section by section, referring to the notes for pointers to interpretation and connections with other teachings of Rebbe Nachman. The main focus of this commentary is on healing, but the implications of this discourse are obviously very much broader and deeper. (For a summary of the discourse, see Chapter 9. For Reb Noson's prayer in Likutey Tefilot based on this discourse, see Prayers #2)
Sound the Shofar - Dominion
Likutey Moharan II, 1
"Sound the shofar on the new moon, at the time appointed for our festive day"
The discourse takes its title from the key verse, "Sound the shofar...". In the concluding section of the discourse, after having explained all the concepts in detail and having built them into an entire structure, Rebbe Nachman will show that all of them are alluded to in the key verse. The Rebbe took the same verse as his key verse in each of the Rosh Hashanah discourses he gave in the last three years of his life. In the printed text of Likutey Moharan all three have the phrase "Sound the shofar" as their title. In order to distinguish the three discourses from one another, their titles in each case also include one word expressing the main theme of the discourse in question. In this case the main theme of the discourse is "dominion over the angels," and accordingly the discourse is subtitled "Dominion."
#1. The Jew was created to have power over the angels.^1 This is the ultimate destiny of the Jewish People, as our Rabbis taught (Yerushalmi Shabbat 2): "In time to come, the position of the tzaddikim will be superior to that of the ministering angels, as it is written (Numbers 23:23): `At such a time Jacob will be asked, What has God done?'" That is, when the angels want to know "What has God done?" they will have to ask the Jews. Each person must see that he attains his destiny^2 and rules over the angels. But one must guard oneself carefully and see that one has the strength to stand firm in this position of power and not let the ministering angels throw one down out of jealousy. For the angels are very jealous^3 of a man like this who has dominion over them. Our Rabbis thus mentioned several great tzaddikim whom the angels tried to cast out (Chagigah 15b).
The jealousy of the angels finds expression in the promptings of a person's evil urge and the external obstacles confronting him. These tend to pull him down from his level and divert him from his exalted spiritual mission. Rebbe Nachman now goes on to explain how to withstand the "jealousy of the angels" - by binding oneself to the souls of the Jewish People.
Binding oneself to the souls of Israel
#2. The way to stand firm is by binding oneself to the souls of Israel.^4 Through this bond one is saved from the angels. This is the idea of "grasping the face of the throne"^5 (Job 26:9): one must attach oneself to the roots of the souls, which were hewn out from beneath the Throne of Glory, which is called "the mother of all living" (Genesis 3:20). Thus the Rabbis said, "When Moses ascended on high, the ministering angels said, `What is a mortal doing among us?' God said, `He has come to receive the Torah.' The angels protested, `But Your glory is praised above the heavens [so how can the Torah be taken down to earth?]' (Psalms 8:2). The Holy One said to Moses, `Give them an answer.' Moses said, `I'm afraid they'll burn me with the breath of their mouths.' God said to him, `Hold onto my Throne of Glory...'" (Shabbat 88b). In other words, the advice God gave Moses was to grasp and bind himself to the roots of the souls, which are the "Throne of Glory," the "mother of all living," in order to be saved from the jealousy of the angels.
In the next paragraph, Rebbe Nachman explores in greater depth why attaching oneself to the "Throne of Glory," the "mother of all living," gives one the strength to withstand the jealousy of the angels. Essentially, this is because the spiritual force that was involved in the creation of the "mother of all living," (i.e. Eve, the first woman, mother of all the souls), came from the "Supernal Man" (=Ze'ir Anpin), who sits upon the Throne of Glory: this is God Himself, in Whose image man was made.
Of the creation of Eve, the "mother of all living," it is written, "And the Lord God built the flank which he took from the man and he brought her to the man" (Genesis 3:22). The letters of the Hebrew word for "built," ויבן (VaYiVeN) are the initial letters of the words in the verse, ותקתיו יתד במקום נאמן (Utekativ Yated Bemakom Ne'eman), "And I will fasten him as a peg in a sure place" (Isaiah ). [In this prophecy, God promised that he would raise Eliakim ben Chilkiah^6 to a position of authority over the whole
This explains the words of Rav Amram the Chassid to the angel who was tempting him^8: "I am flesh, (בשרא , BiSRA), and you are fire, and I am better than you" (Kiddushin 81a). The letters of the word בשרא are the initial letters of the words ש'שים ר'בוא ב'כרס א'חד (Shishim Ribo Be-chares Echad), "six hundred thousand in one womb," i.e. the womb of Yochebed, the mother of Moses, because Moses possessed a general soul^9 containing the roots of all the six hundred thousand souls of the Jewish People (Midrash Shir HaShirim on Songs 1:15). Thus the BiSRA^10 of which Rav Amram boasted to the angel was his connection with the roots of the souls. This is what gave him the strength to stand up in his dominion over the angels, so that he could say, "I am better than you."
Binding oneself to the Tzaddikim
Binding oneself to the roots of all the Jewish souls requires levels of spiritual insight and attainment that are beyond the capacity of most people. A simpler course is to bind oneself to the spiritual leaders of the Jewish People, in whom all the individual souls are rooted. But this raises the question of how to distinguish the true leaders from the false figures who owe their prominence to self-assertiveness.
#3. In order to bind oneself to the roots of the souls of the Jewish People, one needs to know the source of all the souls^11 and the source of the vitality of every single soul. The main thing is to recognize all the known leaders of the generation. For if one is unable to know and bind oneself to each soul individually, one must bind oneself to all the known leaders of the generation, since all the souls are grouped under them. Each of the leaders of the generation has responsibility for a given number of individual souls. When a person binds himself to the known leaders, he is bound to all the individual Jewish souls. But one has to know who the true leaders are, because there are many famous figures who are in fact false leaders^12 who owe their position to brash self-assertiveness, as the Rabbis said, "Impudence is kingship without a crown" (Sanhedrin 105a).
Rebbe Nachman now embarks on his lengthy explanation of how to recognize the false leaders for what they are. This explanation extends from section #4 of the discourse up until section #13, where the question is finally answered as follows: The "Word of God" is the source from which all the forces within creation receive their power. A person who attains true prayer attains the "Word of God," and then all the forces in creation owe their power to this Master of Prayer since he is the one who channels it to them. Thus they are in his debt, as it were. Now it is a talmudic principle that "a person does not act impudently towards his creditor" (Bava Metzia 3a). As a debtor, the false leader is ashamed in front of his creditor, the Master of Prayer, who is thus able to recognize him for what he is. Since the ability to recognize the false leader comes through prayer, the main issue is therefore how to attain true prayer. It is in the course of his discussion of this issue that Rebbe Nachman will explain the power of prayer to channel healing (sections #9-11). The foundation of true prayer lies in the Godly awe and awareness in our hearts. It is therefore necessary to cleanse our hearts of our material cravings for wealth, food and sex, which destroy this awe and awareness.
The knowing heart: Yerushalayim
#4. The way to recognize which of the famous leaders owe their position to brazen impudence is through "rebuilding Jerusalem," i.e. the heart.^13 For Jerusalem, ירושלים (Yerushalayim), is יראה שלם (yir'ah shalem), perfect awe of God.^14 This depends upon the heart, as the Rabbis said, "Wherever a mitzvah is entrusted to the heart of the individual [because no one else can know what his true motives are] the Torah adds the words `and you shall fear God'" (Kiddushin 32b), proving that the place of fear and awe is in the heart.
Three destructive cravings
But there are three traits which destroy
In the light of this we can understand the saying of the Rabbis: "The night is made up of three watches, and the Holy One, blessed be He, sits over each one and roars like a lion, as it is said, `God will roar from on high and let out His cry from His holy habitation, He will roar mightily because of His fold' (Jeremiah 25:30). The sign of the first watch is the braying of the ass; the sign of the second, the barking dogs; the sign of the third, the baby sucking from his mother's breast and a woman talking intimately with her husband" (Berakhot 3a).
The darkness of night signifies obstacles, i.e. the three cravings: for wealth, food and sex. These are the "three watches." The sign of the first, the braying ass, alludes to the craving for wealth.^17 Thus Jacob's blessing to Issakhar as "a large-boned ass" (Genesis 49:14) is translated by Onkelos as indicating that he will be "rich in possessions." The barking dogs who mark the second watch signify the craving for food, as it is written, "The dogs are greedy, they don't know when they've had enough" (Isaiah 56:11). The double sign of the third watch, the baby sucking from his mother's breast and a woman talking intimately with her husband, both have sexual connotations. Thus the sight of a woman conversing intimately with a stranger is considered grounds for suspicion of a liaison between them (Ketuvot 13a). As regards the baby sucking from his mother's breast, sexual desire is related to breast-feeding.
A baby who feeds from the breast of an immodest woman will suffer from excessive sexual desire in later life, because the milk in the breasts is formed from congealed blood (Bekhorot 6a) and the impurities in the blood of an immodest woman will harm the suckling child, engendering the passion in the heart that causes excessive desire. On the other hand, when a child sucks the milk of a modest woman, his heart is quiet within him^18 (cf. Psalms 109:22) and has only the little passion necessary to fulfil God's commandment to be fruitful and multiply. Thus the Rabbis said, "David did not deserve to succumb to his desire for Batsheva, since he had reached a level where he could say of himself (Psalms ibid.) `My heart is quiet within me'" (Avodah Zarah 4b). The initial letters of the Hebrew words in the phrase, "my heart is quiet within me" - ל'בי ח'לל ב'קרבי, Libi Chalal Bekirbi - spell out the word חלב (ChaLaV), "milk": i.e. it was because of the milk of a modest woman that his heart was quiet within him and he did not suffer from an excess of this desire. It was because David was in this category that he did not deserve what happened with Batsheva. On the other hand, the milk of an immodest woman engenders excessive passion. For this reason the initial Hebrew letters of the phrase "my heart waxed hot within me," ח'ם ל'בי ב'קרבי (Cham Libi Bekirbi) (Psalms 39:4) also spell out the word חלב , ChaLaV.
The Rabbis said that "over each watch the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and roars like a lion..." - i.e. over the destruction of awe. For "The lion roars: who will not fear?" (Amos 3:8). For these three cravings, which are the "three watches," prevent the rebuilding of
Bringing da'at into the heart
Rebbe Nachman will now explain how to cleanse the heart of its cravings for wealth, food and sex - by filling the heart with deeper knowledge and awareness of God, da'at. It is not enough to know God intellectually: one must bring this knowledge into one's heart, the seat of one's passions, in order to turn the whole of one's life into a unitary quest for God. In Torah psychology, perfect da'at, "knowledge," is a synthesis of the higher spiritual-intellectual faculties of Chokhmah, "visionary wisdom," and Binah, "rational understanding." Although accessible at all times through Torah study, prayer and performance of the mitzvot, Chokhmah, Binah and Da'at are revealed especially at the three high points of the year, the three festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. In
#5. The way to rectify these three cravings is by bringing deeper knowledge and awareness of God, da'at, into one's heart^19: "Know this day and put it into your heart that HaShem is God..." (Deuteronomy 4:39). One must draw this knowledge and awareness into the heart, and this is how these three cravings are rectified, because da'at actually contains all three parts of the mind, [Chokhmah, Binah and Da'at - wisdom, understanding and knowledge - corresponding to] the three cavities of the skull. These correspond to the three pilgrim festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. On each festival new levels of Godly awareness shine forth to rectify these three cravings. Each of the three festivals rectifies one of them, and for this reason one must take great care to give due honor to the festivals and celebrate them fittingly,^20 because it is through fulfilling the commandment of the three festivals^21 that we are able to rectify these three cravings.
On Pesach the craving for wealth is rectified. Thus when the Jewish People left
In the following paragraph, Rebbe Nachman brings supporting texts demonstrating that the three cravings for wealth, food and sex are all bound up with the concept of "names," or words. We can see an allusion here to the way that people who are sunk in these cravings often tend to use language in a distorted manner in order to enhance the objects of their desires and give them legitimacy. Thus the reverent terms in which people often speak of wealth in its various forms tends to add to its mystique, while the whole purpose of our advertising culture is to praise material products and give them a name. The world of gourmandise has an elaborate language of its own designed to whet the appetites of devotees of food. In the same way, sexually-charged language is used to arouse people's desires. From a spiritual point of view, all such uses of language debase and degrade the divinely-given faculty of speech, whose true purpose is to reveal the power of God in creation so that we should come to "fear this glorious and awesome Name of the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 28:58).
In the phrase describing Korach's supporters, "the chosen men of the assembly, men of renown" (Numbers 16:2), the "men of renown," anshey shem (lit. "men with a name") denote these three cravings.^26 In each case we find the concept of "names" in relation to the objects of these cravings. With regard to wealth, it is written, "In every place where I cause My Name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you" (Exodus ), and "The blessing of God is what makes a person wealthy" (Proverbs ). With regard to eating, it is written, "And call a name in Beit Lechem^27 (lit. the house of bread)" (Ruth ). With regard to sexual desire, it says, "except if the king delighted in her and she were called by name" (Esther ). The awe in the heart is also bound up with the concept of names, i.e. the Name of God, as it is written: "to fear this glorious and awesome Name of the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 28:58). The Hebrew words for "the chosen men of the assembly," קראי מועד (keri'ey mo'ed), allude to calling (קרא , kara) and announcing the festivals^28 (a מועד , mo'ed, is an appointed season, a festival). According to the above explanation, we see that implicit in the phrase "the chosen men of the assembly, men of renown," is the concept of announcing and celebrating the festivals in order to rectify the three cravings, which are called "men of renown."
#6. And through the rebuilding of
#7. But one must be very cautious about being appointed to a position of authority. A person who attains heavenly awe has a strong yearning to be appointed to a position of authority.^33 This is because "When a person has fear of heaven, his words are listened to" (Berakhot 6b), and because his words are listened to, he longs for a position of authority. But one must strongly guard oneself against this, because such a position holds back the flow of prophecy which comes from the angel created through awe. This explains why, when Joshua heard that "Eldad and Meidad are prophesying in the camp" (Numbers ), he said "My lord Moses, close them up (כלאם , KeLA'eM)" (ibid. 28).^34 The Rabbis explained Joshua's words as meaning, "Make them take responsibility for the affairs of the community and they will automatically stop" (Rashi ad loc. and Sanhedrin 17a). The reason is that having responsibility for community affairs, i.e. a position of authority, stops the flow of prophecy, and the letters of the word מלאך (MaL'AKh), angel, are rearranged to form the word כלאם (KeLA'eM), "close them up."
The redemption of prayer
Rebbe Nachman now turns directly to the subject of prayer. The flow of prophetic inspiration that comes through the "rebuilding of
#8. And through the flow of prophetic inspiration,^35 even though there may be no one to actually prophesy, the very fact that prophetic inspiration is present in the world brings about the release and redemption of prayer.^36 For prayer is most exalted,^37 but human beings take it lightly, and when they stand up to pray they want to get it over with. Thus the Rabbis, in their comment on the verse, "When that which is exalted is held cheap among the sons of men" (Psalms 12:9), said, "This refers to words that stand on the exalted summit of the world [i.e. prayer], but the sons of men despise them" (Berakhot 6a). But through the flow of prophetic inspiration, prayer is released from its exile. Thus it is written of Abraham, "For he is a prophet and he will pray for you"^38 (Genesis 20:7). Prophecy brings about the perfection of prayer, for prayer itself is a form of prophecy (נבואה , NeVu'ah), as it is writtten, "He creates the fruit (ניב , NiV) of the lips" (Isaiah 57:19).
Healing power from the "Word of God"
#9. And when prayer is freed and redeemed, the whole of medicine falls, because there is no need for medicines.^39 All medicines are derived from plants, and every single plant receives its powers from its own particular planet or star, because "there isn't a single plant that doesn't have a planet or star that strikes it and says, `Grow!'" (Bereshit Rabbah 10). Every planet and star receives its power from the stars above it, and the highest stars from the higher powers, until they receive power from the supreme angels, as we are taught (Tikkuney Zohar #44, #79b), "All the stars borrow one from another: the moon borrows from the sun, etc. `for one higher than the high guards, and over them are those who are even higher' (Ecclesiastes 5:7)." All of the stars borrow one from the next, until they receive and borrow from the supreme angels, and the angels receive from the powers beyond them, one higher than the other, until they all receive from the root of all things, which is the Word of God,^40 as it is written, "Through the word of God the heavens were made and all their hosts by the breath of His mouth" (Psalms 33:6).
This explains why, when we attain prayer, there is no need for plant-based medicines. The reason is that prayer is "the Word of God," which is the root of all things. Thus the four letters of the Hebrew word for prophet, נביא (NaVIE), are related to the initial letters of the four words ב'דבר י' ש'מים נ'עשו (Bid'var YHVH Shamayim Na'asu), "Through the word of God the heavens were made."^41 Three of the four words in this phrase start with three of the letters in the word נביא (NaVIE) - i.e. נ' ב' י' - while the ש (shin) of the fourth word, שמים (Shamayim, "heaven"), corresponds to the א (aleph) in נביא (NaVIE), because "aleph is the firmament (heaven) separating between the waters and the waters" (Tikkuney Zohar #5 & #40). For through prophecy we attain prayer, which is "the Word of God." Thus, "He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their abominations" (Psalms 107:20). "He sent His word and healed them" - i.e. all cures are received only through the Word of God, namely prayer. And then, "He saved them from their abominations (שחיתותם , shechitotam)" - i.e. from their herbs,^42 as in the phrase "harvesting for fodder (שחת , shachat)" (Menachot 71a) because there is no longer any need for medicines produced from herbs.
The bread and water cure
In the preceding section, Rebbe Nachman set forth the central concept of his healing pathway, which is that true prayer, the "Word of God," channels healing power directly from the very source of all creation without the need for herbs and medicines. In the course of the following sections of the discourse Rebbe Nachman uses this concept to explain a number of key biblical and rabbinic texts on the subject of healing. The first is the verse, "And you will serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and remove sickness from among you" (Exodus ).
"And you will serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from among you" (Exodus ). "And you will serve the Lord your God" - "service means prayer" (Bava Kama 92b). And then, "He will bless your bread and your water, and remove sickness, etc." In other words, you will be healed through bread and water,^43 because they will receive blessing from the root of all things, namely the Word of God - prayer - and bread and water will have the same power to heal as herbs. For the division and allocation of the various powers, which give one plant the power to cure one kind of illness and another a different illness, is found only in the lower world. But above, at the root of all, that is the Word of God, everything is unity,^44 and there is no difference between bread and water and plants and herbs. When one grasps the root, the Word of God, meaning prayer, one is able to channel curative powers into bread and water,^45 and one can be healed through bread and water, "and He will bless your bread and water, and remove sickness...."
As we have seen, prayer is "service." But just as the three cravings for wealth, food and sexual pleasure destroy the awe and awareness of God in the heart, so there are three other forms of "service" that destroy prayer. These are: looking down on other people, idolatry (flawed faith) and sexual immorality. Rebbe Nachman will bring supporting texts to show that these three are all forms of "servitude." Thus we see that those who despise other people become locked into an attitude that divides the world into superior and inferior people, and inevitably they themselves feel subordinate to those they consider superior. As regards idolatry, we have already seen that Rebbe Nachman viewed dependence on the means of healing, making a living, etc. rather than upon God, as a form of idolatry (Likutey Moharan I, 62:6). Thus people tend to become enslaved to their businesses, medicines and all the other things they look to as their means of salvation and security in various areas of life. When it comes to immorality, it is easy to see how people become enslaved to the dictates of their passions. In the course of his discussion of these three forms of servitude, Rebbe Nachman gives a novel explanation of a second key Torah text on healing, the rabbinic statement that "One can be cured by any means except idolatry, immorality and bloodshed" (Pesachim 25a). Literally this means that any Torah prohibition besides these three may be violated to treat a critically sick person.
#10. But there are three forms of "service" which destroy prayer.^46 These are three negative traits: (1) Looking down on other people, failing to live by the injunction, "Don't despise anyone" (Avot 4:3);^47 (2) Idolatry - and anything less than perfect faith in God is also tantamount to idolatry; (3) Immorality, failure to guard the Covenant properly. Each of these traits is an unholy form of "service" and destroys the true service, which is that of prayer. Thus we find that despising other people leads to slavery. Joseph's brothers despised him and did not believe he would be king. As a result they fell into slavery and eventually said to him, "Here we are, your slaves" (Genesis 50:18). Idolatry is the religion of slaves. Thus it is written, "I am the Lord your God Who brought you out of the
Only when one emerges from these three forms of slavery, i.e. from these three traits, can one attain prayer. One can then be cured with anything in the world, even bread and water.^49 We can now see a new dimension of meaning in the Torah principle that, where there is a threat to life, one may violate any prohibition except three: "One can be cured by any means except idolatry, immorality and bloodshed" (Pesachim 25a). "One can be cured by any means" - i.e. one can be cured by anything in the world. But there is a condition: "excepting idolatry, immorality and bloodshed." These are the three evil traits discussed above, which are three forms of slavery. When one becomes free of them, "one can be cured by any means," even with bread and water, because when one emerges from these three forms of slavery one attains the service of prayer, and can then be healed through anything in the world.
Prevention and cure
In the following section, Rebbe Nachman explains a third key Torah text on healing: "If you will listen carefully to the voice of HaShem your God and do what is right in His eyes, and give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you that I have put on the Egyptians, for I am HaShem your Healer" (Exodus 15:26). Through careful textual analysis Rebbe Nachman will show that the three aspects of devotion mentioned in this verse - doing what is right in God's eyes, giving ear to His commandments, and keeping His statutes - are the remedy for the three forms of "slavery" that destroy prayer, as discussed earlier. Rebbe Nachman addresses the apparent contradiction in the key verse: if God "will put none of the diseases upon you that I have put on the Egyptians," why is He "your Healer"? There should be no illnesses to heal! In answering this, Rebbe Nachman points out that an illness may be present in the body in an embryonic state of development even when it is not detectible in the form of overt physical symptoms. The path of prayer can bring healing to incipient or latent illnesses as well as to those that are fully developed. The path of prayer is thus preventive, conferring immunity, as well as being a healing pathway when an illness has already developed. This section of the discourse is of particular interest in view of the contemporary recognition of the importance of a strong immune system in healthcare.
#11. And know that there are different kinds of illness. There is a kind of illness which develops the way a plant does. When a seed is sown in the ground the husk decomposes and a fatty substance emerges which turns into strands which steadily multiply and become the root. From this emerge branches, and from them more branches, until eventually the fruit blossoms. In the same way there is a form of illness that develops in a person over the course of years. On the other hand, there are certain illnesses that people are born with, inheriting them from their parents, though the illness may not manifest itself until old age. During the developmental stages of the illness, it is hidden and concealed from the eye of all living, and nobody knows of it, although the person with the illness may begin to feel certain sensations that are symptomatic of the illness.
There are also differences between medicines.^50 There are illnesses that can be cured by a single herb, but more serious illnesses may require compounds of a variety of herbs in order to cure them. Sometimes the illness calls for drugs that grow in far-off places. And there are illnesses which no medicine has the power to cure, because the illness is too strong to be cured by herbs. In the initial stages of its development, before it spread and manifested itself outwardly, it could have been cured quite easily, but then it was hidden and concealed from the eyes of all, and nobody knew of it except for God.
Yet when one attaches oneself to the Word of God, prayer, one can be cured by anything in the world, even bread and water, because "One can be cured by any means," as discussed above. One can be cured even when the disease is still in its early stages of development,^51 while it is still hidden from the eyes of men, since one has no need for medicines at all as one's "medicine" is bread and water. Therefore even then, when the illness is not revealed, one can also be cured through the bread and water one eats at the time.
It is written, "If you will listen carefully to the voice of HaShem your God and do what is right in His eyes, and give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you that I have put on the Egyptians, for I am HaShem your Healer" (Exodus 15:26). All the commentators raise the obvious question: If He will not put the diseases upon us, what need is there for healing? (See Rashi, Ramban and Kli Yakar ad loc. and Sanhedrin 101a.) But in the light of the above discussion, the question is resolved quite satisfactorily. "I will put none of the diseases upon you..." i.e. He will not bring you to an actual illness, because He will heal you beforehand, while the illness is still developing. "For I am HaShem your Healer" - i.e. during the developmental stages of the illness, when no one knows of it except for God,^52 then "I will heal you" through the Word of God, prayer. It will never reach the stage of an actual illness,^53 because it will be cured before this, while still developing.
All this depends upon prayer with true devotion, which entails emerging from the three kinds of slavery^54 discussed above. Rectifying these three traits is alluded to in the same verse: "If you will listen carefully to the voice of HaShem your God and do what is right in His eyes, and give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes...." Doing "what is right (ישר , yashar) in His eyes" is the opposite of despising other people. For someone who abuses another person will eventually have to repent and "ישר (yashor), come before men and say, `I have sinned and perverted what was right (ישר , yashar)...'" (Job 33:27 and see Yoma 87a). The idea of "giving ear to His commandments" is that of guarding the Covenant, which is the foundation of all the commandments, and thus "Abraham circumcised Isaac his son when he was eight days old just as God commanded him" (Genesis 21:4). "And keep all His statutes" implies developing one's faith to perfection, the opposite of idolatry and imperfect faith, of which it is said, "the statutes of the nations are vanity" (Jeremiah 10:3).
When we fulfil all this, then "I will put none of the diseases upon you that I have put on the Egyptians, for I am HaShem your Healer." For then one attains perfect prayer and can be healed by the Word of God through anything in the world, even before the illness becomes outwardly manifest - "One can be cured by any means." (And even when the illness has already developed, as in a case where a person has not merited healing beforehand, even so, he can still be cured through the Word of God, even from a fully developed illness, as it is written, "And He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from among you," i.e. even a fully developed illness, because through the Word of God one can always be cured through anything in the world.)^55
King Hezekiah and the Book of Remedies
Rebbe Nachman's essential point about healing in this discourse is that by redeeming prayer from its "exile" it is possible to heal without recourse to medicine. Rebbe Nachman now shows that this is precisely the pathway instituted by King Hezekiah, who "put away the Book of Remedies".
When King Hezekiah fell sick and prayed to God, he said, "I have done what is good in Your eyes" (Isaiah 38:3). Our Rabbis said he was referring to the fact that he "joined redemption and prayer" (i.e. he introduced the rule that the Amidah prayer should be recited directly after the blessing of Redemption that follows the Shema) and he put away the Book of Remedies (Berakhot 10b). It is all one idea, because through joining redemption and prayer, i.e. through redeeming prayer from its exile, he was able to put away the Book of Remedies. For when prayer is redeemed, all the medicines fall away, because one can be healed through the Word of God. And then all the doctors are ashamed of their remedies,^56 because no medicine has any power, as all the healing plants put their power back into prayer, which is the Word of God, their supreme Source.
For all the plants and herbs of the field are obliged to do this. When a man rises to pray - and this is the Word of God, their supreme Source - they give back their power and put it into the prayer, which is their supreme source. When a person prays for a cure to an illness, the herbs which have the power to cure that illness are obliged to give back their power and put it into the prayer, which is their source, the Word of God. Thus "Isaac went out to pray (לשוח , laSuaCh) in the field" (Genesis 24:63): his prayer was with the herbs (שיח , SiaCh) of the field, because all the herbs of the field returned their power and put it into his prayer,^57 which was their root.
With the above reference to Isaac's prayer "with the herbs of the field," Rebbe Nachman concludes his direct treatment of the theme of healing in this discourse, though some of the later sections have an important bearing on the subject. The redemption of prayer from its exile is nothing less than the redemption of the Jewish People by Mashiach from their servitude to the nations and to the laws of nature. The implication is that Mashiach is the true Master of Prayer, and all the prayers of individual Jews feed into Mashiach's prayers. For each individual Jew is a "plant" or "tree" in the "Garden of the Souls," and his prayers are the "fragrant scent" emanating from the plant. Mashiach, who is the "Master of the Field" (see Garden of the Souls), goes out to pray "in the field," as it were, and the "herbs of the field" - the souls - return their power and put it into his prayer, which is their root, as discussed above.
#12. When the plants and herbs return their powers and put them into prayer, Mashiach^58 shines forth. For all things are differentiated from one another by their appearance, taste and scent - which is why the Hebrew word for "rain," which is what causes all vegetation to grow, is מטר (matar): the letters of מ'ט'ר are the initial letters of the Hebrew words for appearance, taste and scent, מ'ראה (Mar'eh), ט'עם (Ta'am) and ר'יח (Rei'ach). Of these, the most important is scent, because it is only from a thing's scent that the soul has enjoyment, as our Rabbis taught: "What is it that the soul enjoys but not the body? Fragrant odors" (Berakhot 43b). Now prayer emanates from the soul, as it is written, "Let every soul praise God" (Psalms 150:6). Mashiach receives all the prayers [to elevate them to God], because Mashiach is the "nose," as it is written, "The breath of our nostrils, God's annointed (Mashiach)" (Lamentations ). It is the nose which receives all the scents, i.e. the prayers, because prayer, which comes from the soul, feeds from the scent, as we noted above. Thus prayer is associated with the nose, as it is written, "And My praise is that I will restrain My anger (אחטום , eChToM) for your sake" (Isaiah 48:9). [The literal meaning is that God is to be praised for patiently bearing the sins of the Jewish People, but the verse is also teaching that prayer, "My praise," requires a long breath of patience before one sees results.^59 Thus prayer is an aspect of "the nose" (חוטם , ChoTeM), through which we breathe.] This is why he is called משיח , Mashiach, because he receives his "nourishment" from the herbs (שיח , Si'aCh) of the field, i.e. from all the scents^60 which come into the prayer, which is the "nose" (ChoTeM), as in the verse, "My praise (prayer) is a long breath (eChToM)." Mashiach receives them, for he is "the breath of our nostrils, God's annointed."
Recognizing false leaders
On the basis of all the concepts discussed in the discourse from section #4 until this point, Rebbe Nachman now gives his answer to the question of how to recognize the false leaders who owe their position to self-assertiveness. As already mentioned, the essence of the answer is that when a person attains true prayer, the "Word of God," which is the source from which all the forces within creation receive their power, all these forces owe their power to him and are in his debt, as it were. In accordance with the talmudic principle that "a person does not act impudently towards his creditor" (Bava Metzia 3a) the false leader is ashamed in front of the Master of Prayer, who is thus able to recognize him for what he is.
#13. A person who attains true prayer finds favor in the eyes of all, as we find with Esther: "And Esther found favor in the sight of all who looked upon her" (Esther ). The Rabbis explained this to mean that "everyone who saw her imagined she was from his own nation" (Megillah 13a). In the same way this Master of Prayer, who attains the Word of God, which is the supreme Source from which all the different powers and all the hosts of heaven receive, finds favor in the eyes of all of them. Every single one of them imagines that he is "from his own nation,"^61 and is only concerned about him, because all of them are receiving from him.
He can then recognize which of the famous leaders owe their position to brash self-assertiveness, because their brazen shamelessness falls away in his presence.^62 For when a person attains true prayer, the Word of God - which is the supreme Source from which the highest angels and all the hosts of heaven receive their power - all the angels and the hosts of heaven become his debtors. For "all the stars borrow one from another, etc." and thus all of them are debtors, right up to the supreme Source, which is the Word of God, which the Master of Prayer has attained. He is thus the Great Lender, to whom all the hosts of heaven and all the powers in the world are in debt.
"And the hosts of heaven bow to You" (Nechemiah 9:6): all the hosts of heaven bow down to and humble themselves before their root, which is the Word of God, which the Master of Prayer has attained. For this reason the initial letters of the four Hebrew words in this verse, ו'צבא ה'שמים ל'ך מ'שתחוים (Utzeva Hashamayim Lecha Mishtachavim), spell out the word מלוה (MaLVeH), which means a creditor. For all these forces borrow from one another until they receive from the Great Lender, the Master of Prayer, who has attained the root of all things, the Word of God. The reason why he is able to recognize which of the famous leaders owe their position to brazenness is that "a person does not act impudently towards his creditor" (Bava Metzia 3a). Because of this, their brazen impudence falls away before the Master of Prayer, who is the Great Lender - because they are all in his debt.
Moses was the archetypal leader of the Jewish People, and a veritable Master of Prayer. God said to Moses, "You have found favor in My eyes and I know you by name" (Exodus 33:17). The concept of "names" was discussed earlier in the discourse, at the end of section #5. Rebbe Nachman now returns to this idea again, using the above-quoted verse to draw together some of the main strands of the discourse as a whole.
God said to Moses, "For you have found favor in My eyes and I know you by name" (Exodus 33:17). When "all the hosts of heaven bow to you [i.e. the Master of Prayer]" because they all receive and borrow from him, through this he finds favor in their eyes, since "each one imagines he is from his own nation." And through finding favor in the eyes of all, then: "I know you by name" - i.e. you will be able to know and recognize all the famous leaders who have made a "name" for themselves. For a famous leader who owes his name and fame to brazenness falls down before the Master of Prayer, as explained above.
On the positive side, "I know you by name" also relates to the concept of attaching oneself to the roots of the souls, through which one is saved from the accusation of the angels. For the "name" is the soul,^63 as it is written, "the soul of every living creature is its name" (Genesis ). For through attachment to the true leaders one is bound to all the souls and can "grasp the face of the throne" - i.e. one is bound to the roots of the souls, who are the Throne of Glory.
Judgment and mercy
This discourse was given on Rosh Hashanah 1808, and Rebbe Nachman now turns to the implications of Rosh Hashanah as the Day of Judgment. Yet, as the Rebbe says, any time that a person sits down to talk about another person is a "day of judgment." The theme of judgment relates to the earlier sections of this discourse in several ways. The idea that we should not judge others negatively - and this applies to ourselves as well - is a further development of the idea discussed above (section #10) not to despise anyone (Avot 4:3). The Rabbis warned not to judge another person "until you have reached his place" (Avot 2:5). But only God, Who is beyond space, knows the true place and situation of each and every person, and can thus judge favorably and charitably. Rebbe Nachman adds that those who grasp the Throne of Glory also rise to a level that is "beyond space" and can also judge favorably. This discussion has an important bearing on healing, since essentially healing comes through joy, which is attained through judging oneself positively and finding one's good points. Illness is essentially a "decree" or "judgment", and the key to healing lies in sweetening the harshness of the decree through pidyon nefesh, "redemption of the soul," which can only be accomplished by a Master of Prayer who can intercede and plead with God to judge the sick person with mercy and kindness. Rebbe Nachman here provides us with a powerful argument to use in our prayers and appeals to God to forgive us for our backsliding and to send healing.
#14. And then one can celebrate Rosh Hashanah,^64 the New Year. For when a person sits down to talk about another person, this is "Rosh Hashanah," which is the Day of Judgment - for he is sitting in judgment over his fellow man. One must be very cautious about this and examine oneself carefully to see if one is fit to judge one's fellow man. For "the judgment is God's" (Deuteronomy ), for God alone is fit to judge people, as our Rabbis said: "Don't judge your fellow man until you have reached his place" (Avot 2:5). Who can understand and project himself into the place of his fellow man^65 except God? For "God is the Place of the world, but the world is not His place" (Bereshit Rabbah 68 and Rashi on Exodus 33:21). Each individual has a place with God, and therefore He alone can judge a person, because God is supreme in compassion and certainly fulfils the maxim to "judge everyone favorably" (Avot 1:6).
Underlying the next paragraph is the rabbinic teaching that the sun and the moon were originally created equal, but when the moon complained that the heaven and earth could not have two luminaries of equal size, God made the moon smaller, which is why, after full moon, the moon begins to wane until it finally becomes invisible at the end of the month (Bereshit Rabbah 6:3). This midrash relates to the idea that God created the lower world (the realm of the "moon," malkhut) with the intention that ultimately Godliness should be revealed there as fully as in the upper worlds (the realm of the "sun," the higher sefirot), but that this purpose could be accomplished only by first screening and hiding the divine light in the lower world in order to challenge man to discover it for himself by overcoming his materialistic impulses. If man is often defeated by the obstacles confronting him, it can be argued in his favor that God Himself is responsible for the "flaw" in creation that causes man to sin.
We see God's compassion in the fact that he ordained that Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, should fall on the day of the New Moon. This is an act of great mercy, because how could we raise our heads to ask Him to grant us atonement? He therefore had mercy on us and set the Day of Judgment, Rosh Hashanah, on the day of the New Moon, when He Himself, as it were, asks for atonement [for making the moon smaller.^66 The Rabbis learned this from the fact that, uniquely among all the other festival sin offerings, the sin offering brought on the appearance of the New Moon is called "a sin offering for God" (Numbers 28:15)], as if God were saying, "Bring atonement for Me" (Chullin 60b). For this reason we are not ashamed to ask for atonement on the Day of Judgment, since God Himself then asks for atonement. In addition, the very fact that God Himself came to the point where He had to say, "Bring atonement for Me" - i.e., He did something that gave Him cause to regret, as it were, and say, "Bring atonement for Me" - makes it possible for us to come before Him without shame and beg atonement for our sins and express our regret, because He too did something that He came to regret. We thus see His great compassion. And therefore He alone is fit to judge the world, because He knows the place of each and every person, because all their different places are with Him since He is the Place of the world, whereas the world is not His place.
The reference to the moon in the last paragraph connects thematically with the earlier discussion about how the lower planets receive their light from the higher stars, etc. (#9), and also with the discussion about rectifying our cravings for wealth, food and sexual pleasure through celebrating the three festivals (#5): the dates of the festivals are fixed by counting the days from the start of the month, which according to the Jewish lunar calendar depends upon the appearance of the new moon. Pesach and Sukkot both begin on the 15th of the month - full moon - while Shavuot falls when the moon is waxing. Thus the festivals rectify our material cravings, which have a hold over us only because of the "diminution of the moon," the muting of the light of Godliness in this world.
In the next three paragraphs Rebbe Nachman further explores the idea that God is the "place of the world," which is why He can judge everyone favorably, as He knows the place of every single person. The discussion here about the
For although we find places where the Divine Presence dwelled, as in the Holy Temple, the idea is not that His Godliness was contracted there, God forbid, for as King Solomon said, "Behold, the heaven and the heavens of heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house" (Kings I, 8:27). It means, rather, that the Temple contained things of great beauty, for "the Holy Temple had the same form as the work of creation and the form of the Garden of Eden" (Introduction to Tikkuney Zohar), and God therefore drew down His holiness to there. But as for God in Himself, the world is not His place, although He is the Place of the world. This is why He can celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, for He fulfils the prescription, "Don't judge your fellow man until you have reached his place," since He is the place of the world.
This idea is expressed in the verse, "Holiness is becoming to Your house, O God, for the length of days" (Psalms 93:5). "Holiness is becoming to Your house," i.e., God drew only His holiness down to the Temple because it contained beautiful objects, but as for God Himself, the world is not His place, but rather He is the Place of the world. And therefore, "O God, for the length of days,"^67 i.e. God can celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the two days of which are considered one long day (Beitzah 4-6 and Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim #393).
And someone who grasps the Throne of Glory, the root of the souls, is also the "Place of the World," as it is written, "He raises the poor out of the dust... to make them sit with princes, and inherit the Throne of Glory, for the pillars of the earth are God's and He has set the world upon them" (Samuel I, 2:8). In other words, through grasping the Throne of Glory, the roots of the souls, one rises to the level of the Place of the World, for "He has set the world upon them" and therefore one can celebrate Rosh Hashanah.
Rebbe Nachman concludes the discourse by showing how all of its main themes are alluded to in the key verse: "Sound the shofar on the new moon, at the time appointed for our festive day" (Psalms 81:4).
"Sound the shofar on the new moon, at the time appointed for our festive day."
Sound (תקעו, TiK'u): this is the concept of dominion, "I will fasten him (ותקעתיו , uTeKativ) as a peg in a sure place." On the new moon: this is the renewal of Godly awareness that shines on the three pilgrim festivals, the times of which are fixed according to the New Moon, because "He made the moon to mark the seasons" (Psalms 104:19). The shofar (שופר, horn): this symbolizes the heart, which is nourished by the choicest beauty (שופרא דשופרא , shufra deshufra) (Zohar IV, 216 & 221, and see Tikkuney Zohar #21 & #49). The shofar also alludes to awe of heaven, as it is written, "Shall the shofar be blown in the city and the people not tremble?" (Amos 3:6). The shofar also symbolizes prophecy, as in "Raise your voice like a shofar" (Isaiah 58:1). The shofar also signifies prayer: "Out of the narrow straits I called on God, He answered me with great expansiveness" (Psalms 118:5). Thus one blows into the narrow end of the shofar and the sound comes out of the wide end. The shofar also alludes to the way the herbs of the field put their power back into the prayer, as when "Isaac went out to pray in the field." The shofar is called a יובל (yovel), as in "when they make a long blast with the ram's horn" (Joshua 6:5). The letters of the word יובל , YOVeL, are the initial letters of the words ו'יצא י'צחק ל'שוח ב'שדה (Vayetze Yitzchak Lasuach Basadeh), "Isaac went out to pray in the field." And through all these categories, we come to the time appointed for our festive day, i.e. Rosh Hashanah, for through attaining these levels one can celebrate Rosh Hashanah.
A summary of "Sound the Shofar - Dominion"
1. "Sound the Shofar - Dominion" teaches not only a pathway of healing but a way of life that can bring every Jew to the takhlit, the ultimate purpose - complete fulfilment in this world and the next.
2. First and foremost, "bind yourself to the true Tzaddik" by regularly taking time to study his teachings and doing your best to follow them in practice. This is how to conquer all the obstacles and barriers that stand in the way of spiritual fulfilment.
3. Let your goal be to "build Yerushalayim" - to fill yourself with awareness of God in all your activities, especially when satisfying your material needs for livelihood, food and sexual satisfaction. There are many mitzvot connected with making a living, eating and marital life. Give special attention to halakhic study of the details of these mitzvot, and make every effort to carry them out in practice.
4. When making a living, let your aim be to have the means to give charity and lead a Torah life. Eat wisely in order to enhance your spiritual faculties and have the strength to pray, study and fulfil the mitzvot. Cherish your spouse and seek to procreate in order to bring into the world holy Jewish souls who will grow up to know God and serve Him.
5. The key to sanctifying all your mundane activities is through celebrating Shabbat and the festivals joyously with due honor through the year, and, on a daily basis, by giving pride of place to the three prayer services and to hisbodedus. This way you build a sanctuary of Godly service in your very heart - a worthy place for prophetic spirit to rest. You will learn to draw all your needs in life from God through "prayer to the God of my life" (Psalms 42:9).
6. In order to perfect your prayer, work on refining your faith in God, fight against all immoral desires, and train yourself to respect and cherish all people, searching for their good points. Be sure to search for your own good points as well, and take the greatest joy in them. It's a great mitzvah to be happy always!
It is obviously a mistake to envisage angels as the winged figures portrayed in western art. The Hebrew word for angel is malakh, literally a messenger or agent. The angels are the spiritual forces that translate the divine will into action in the lower worlds. As such they are the agents channeling divine blessing into the world. According to the Kabbalah, the place of the angels is in the world of Yetzirah ("Formation"). Although man in this world is on a lower plane than the angels, his soul is rooted in the world of Beriyah ("Creation"), also called the World of the Throne. Thus man is potentially on a higher level than the angels, and through his prayers, mitzvot and good deeds, can bring them to channel greater blessing into the world. However, man's ability to do this depends upon his actualizing his spiritual powers.
"The key to having power over the angels is therefore to have power over oneself - to be in control of one's cravings and desires so as to steer oneself to the path of Torah and mitzvot. This explains why one of the central ideas in this discourse is that of bringing da'at, knowledge and awareness of God, from the mind down into the heart, which is the seat of our passions" (Biur HaLikutim #37).
The concept of our ultimate destiny provides a link between this discourse and Rebbe Nachman's teaching about "Why do people get sick", where he says that illness is caused by straying from one's ultimate purpose. When man attains his destiny and rules benevolently over God's creation, he is at the peak of his powers and this is the ultimate in health and healing. Another link is with the concept of the ultimate destiny of the soul as discussed in Rebbe Nachman's teaching of the "Garden of the Souls" (Likutey Moharan I, 65), where he teaches that the great Tzaddik, whose task is to guide souls to their fulfilment, examines each person's speech to see how near or far he is from his goal (Garden of the Souls p.40). This is because only through speech and prayer can we attain our destiny and rule over the angels.
"The jealousy of the angels finds expression in our own materialistic cravings and desires, and the obstacles and difficulties standing in the way of anything holy, especially prayer" (Torat Nathan #1). "When the angels attack a Jewish soul, they inject it with their own jealousy, so that that person too becomes jealous of others, including those superior to himself. This may lead to a flaw in his faith in the One who Himself sits upon the throne" (Biur HaLikutim #19). Yet there is a positive aspect to the jealousy of the angels, in that it may spur people to reach out to "take hold of the throne" and follow the pathway outlined in this discourse (ibid. #8).
"Since all the six hundred thousand Jewish souls were created only for this dominion, it is clear that only when bound together can they stand in this position of power over the entire host of heaven. For when the souls are in conflict with one another and even a single soul is missing, the corresponding limb of the `body' made up by all the souls collectively is flawed" (Biur HaLikutim #1).
It is through the mitzvah of loving every Jew that the souls become united. This explains why it is customary to reaffirm our commitment to fulfil this mitzvah as we begin each of the daily prayer services, because unity among the souls is essential in order for us to "rule over the angels" with our prayers. Likewise, it is necessary to pray with a minyan, as our prayers are most effective when we all pray together.
Reb Noson writes: "It is difficult to understand the advice given in this discourse to `hold on to the Throne of Glory' in order to withstand the jealousy of the angels, because this in itself is something that is extremely hard for us to do. In order to achieve it, we need to follow the entire pathway explained here of honoring the three festivals so as to attain prophetic spirit and prayer, but all of this is extremely difficult.... The truth is, we have no one to lean upon except our Father in Heaven and the power of the true Tzaddik, whose Torah teachings can inspire us to action. For the true Tzaddik is one who has won the battle against his desires and overcome the jealousy of the angels, taking hold of the Throne of Glory so as to snatch the Torah from Heaven and bring it down to the Jewish People. The Tzaddik has the power to save every single Jew who is willing to draw close to him from the jealousy of the angels. This is because the Tzaddik knows how to celebrate Rosh Hashanah - i.e. he judges each person positively through his knowledge of the place of each one. He genuinely lifts each person into the scale of merit by finding good points in every aspect of his life and soul, and then even the lowliest of people can follow the pathway explained in this discourse, each according to his level, and take hold of the Throne of Glory..." (Torat Nathan #1).
Eliakim ben Chilkiah lived in the time of King Hezekiah. He was appointed trustee over the Temple in place of Shevna, whom God rejected as a self-seeking traitor (Isaiah 22:15-19). Shevna's rejection in favor of Eliakim exemplifies many of the themes Rebbe Nachman develops in this discourse. Eliakim and Shevna were both officers in the Holy Temple. Eliakim was a true Tzaddik while Shevna was out for himself. Eliakim was a supporter of King Hezekiah, who redeemed prayer from its exile, while Shevna opposed Hezekiah and was willing to hand him over to the Assyrian invaders (Sanhedrin 26a).
Although in this life man's place is in the material world, he is far more than a physical being. The essence of man is his soul, which derives from the Supernal Man, and it is this spark of Godliness in man that gives him the power to use his speech - the faculty that distinguishes him from the animals - to attain the Word of God, prayer, and to rule over the angels.
Rav Amram was sorely tempted by a freed captive girl who was staying in his house. To overcome his desires, he cried out that his house was on fire so that his neighbors would come running and he would be too ashamed to do anything in front of them (Kiddushin 81a). Rebbe Nachman's reference to this episode makes it clear that the "jealousy of the angels" expresses itself primarily in our material cravings.
Moses is the paradigm of the true Tzaddik, and all the tzaddikim in all the generations have a spark of the soul of Moses (cf. Likutey Moharan I, 4:5 etc.). Moses appears repeatedly throughout this discourse. Moses was the true Master of Prayer. He prayed for the Jewish People after the sins of the golden calf (Exodus 32:11) and the spies (Numbers 14:13). He also prayed for the healing of Miriam from leprosy (ibid. 12:13) and of the Jewish People from snakebites (ibid. 21:7). When a Jew binds himself to the true Tzaddik of the generation, he can be healed through the Tzaddik's prayers.
BaSaR is literally flesh, but when Rav Amram said he was BiSRA he was also alluding to holy, spiritual "flesh" (cf. Likutey Moharan II, 83) - i.e. the souls of the Jewish People, all of which make up the "limbs" of the Supernal Man. This helps illumine the meaning of the phrase לב בשר (LeV BaSaR), a "heart of flesh," as in the verse, "I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26). Such a heart is open and responsive to the needs and feelings of all people (see below pp. 399-407).
"To know the source of all the souls entails understanding the secrets of ma'aseh merkavah, the kabbalistic lore of the `chariot,' which is the Throne of Glory, because it is in the `throne' that the souls are rooted" (Biur HaLikutim #2). "To grasp on to the Throne of Glory is thus to seek and know the glory of God" (ibid. end). Rebbe Nachman said that he knew the roots of every Jewish soul (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #185, and see #90 and #176).
A false leader is anyone whose guidance and leadership, spiritual or otherwise, not only cannot bring a Jew to his or her true spiritual fulfilment through Torah and mitzvot but may distance themfrom it. Reb Noson writes: "Certainly every false leader must have some good in him, otherwise he would not have the power to attract Jewish souls, because Jewish souls are by nature attracted only to good. Thus `every lie that is not based on some truth at the start cannot endure' (Rashi on Numbers 13:27). It is just that the falsehood and evil outweigh the good" (Torat Nathan #3).
In this discourse, the themes of leadership and healing are closely interwoven. Just as Rebbe Nachman associated the pathway of prayer taught by the true Tzaddik with genuine healing, so he grouped false leaders together with doctors as two categories of people who fail to provide the benefits they promise. "The Angel of Death has the job of killing everyone in the world physically and spiritually, and the task is too weighty, so he appoints assistants in each place: the physicians to kill physically and the false leaders to kill spiritually" (Avanehah Barzel p.43 #64).
Jerusalem is the heart of the world. As the place of the Holy Temple, gathering place of all the Jewish souls, it corresponds to the Throne of Glory. The three "feet" of the throne are the three "foot" festivals, when all the Jews are commanded to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Thus Jerusalem is rebuilt through observing the three festivals.
Yir'at shamayim, reverential awe of Heaven, is the foundation of the entire pathway set forth in this discourse. Intellectual knowledge that God exists is of little value without heartfelt awareness of God's awesome greatness and His power to requite us for our actions in this world, good or evil. Rebbe Nachman once said, "I am the treasure house of awe of heaven" (Tzaddik #294).
The essence of material desire is the search for one's own self-gratification. This is the opposite of the self-effacing humility that is necessary in order to see the glory of God and "take hold of the throne." The pathway Rebbe Nachman explains in this discourse is not only one of healing but also of preventive healthcare. The cravings for wealth, food and sexual pleasure are among the main destroyers of people's health. The stress and tension involved in the battle to increase earning power play a prominent role in heart disease, the main killer in "advanced" countries. Another major factor in heart disease is excessive intake of fat, which, together with other unhealthful dietary habits, is also responsible for many other diseases. Giving way to excessive sexual craving can lead not only to venereal diseases, AIDS, etc. but also causes distortions in interpersonal relationships that engender deep unhappiness and eventually find expression in all manner of actual physical illnesses. Conversely, moderation and self-discipline are among the best guarantors of sound, good health.
The real blessing is to recognize all the good God has given us and to be grateful for it. This is true wealth, for "Who is rich? The one who is satisfied with his portion" (Avot 4:1). The "toil" (etzev) which those who lack this blessing suffer is atzvut, tension and depression, which take an especially heavy toll on the heart, as alluded to in the verse Rebbe Nachman quotes presently, "it grieved Him in His heart" (Genesis 6:6).
"The craving for wealth is called `the first watch' because money-making is the main preoccupation of most people in this world. Next comes eating, which is the `second watch.' People tend to be more secretive about their sexual cravings, and thus it is the `third watch'" (Parpara'ot LeChokhmah #3).
The parents of R. Judah the Prince had him circumcised despite the fact that the Roman rulers in Israel had prohibited circumcision. The Roman governor sent the baby R. Judah with his mother to Rome to appear before the Emperor. But before they went in to him, a gentile friend of R. Judah's mother who had also recently given birth to a baby boy told her to take her baby, who was uncircumcised, and show him to the Emperor. On seeing the uncircumcised baby, the Emperor sent R. Judah's mother home, threw out the governor for slander, and revoked the decree against circumcision. When R. Judah's saintly mother took the gentile baby into the Emperor she fed him with her own milk. Drinking this milk influenced this boy for life, and when he grew up, he learned Torah and had himself circumcised. He became the Emperor Antoninus, R. Judah's lifelong friend (Tosafot on Avodah Zarah 10b, s.v. amar ley).
Da'at is the knowledge and awareness that everything in the world is under God's direct control and providence, including the so-called laws of nature, which God has the power to suspend at will. As we have seen, the concept of da'at plays an important role in Rebbe Nachman's spiritual pathway of healing. But it is not enough to have this knowledge and awareness on a purely intellectual level. We have to bring it into our hearts so that we actually feel God's power and presence (cf. Likutey Moharan I, 34).
Reb Noson writes: "The darkness of night symbolizes these three cravings, which are the three watches of the night. Each day we have to fill ourselves with the Godly awareness engendered by the three festivals in order to bring these three cravings under control. Godly awareness, da'at, is the `light of day,' and it comes from the three festivals, which are called Yom Tov, a good day. For the light of day is good, as it is written, `God saw the light that it was good' (Genesis 1:4). Da'at, the `light of day,' puts the darkness of night - the three cravings - to flight. The way to fill ourselves with da'at is by studying Torah at night, i.e. getting up for Chatzot (the midnight service) in order to break the darkness of night. For Chatzot is the middle point of the night, when the darkness is at its most intense. By forcing ourselves to get up, we break the power of the `three watches,' i.e. the three cravings. We then study Torah in order to draw da'at into our hearts to rectify the three cravings. Chatzot is a lament over the destruction of the Holy Temple, because the Temple is the source of da'at" (Torat Nathan #5).
Honoring the festivals is one of the most important pieces of practical advice in this discourse. It emerges that celebration of the festivals is one of the keys to healthcare and healing! It is characteristic of Rebbe Nachman to teach us to fight the negative - here the three cravings - by emphasizing the positive (see Tzaddik #354). The concept of the festivals also includes Shabbat, which is called "the first of the holy convocations" (see Parpara'ot LeChokhmah #9). Unlike the festivals, the fixing of Shabbat has nothing to do with the phases of the moon (which is one of the major underlying themes of this discourse), but even so, in Leviticus ch. 23, where all the festivals are listed, Shabbat comes first.
In Temple times the festivals were occasions for the Jewish People to make a physical pilgrimage to a holy place, the Sanctuary. But Shabbat and the festivals can themselves be seen as "sanctuaries in time" - sacred time when we pause from the mundane activities that keep our minds focussed on the material in order to direct ourselves to the spiritual and build our da'at. The purpose is that this enhanced da'at should then shine into our everyday lives so as to elevate them to a higher plane. We must learn to turn every day into a "Yom Tov" - by finding and enjoying the good in it (cf. Likutey Moharan I, 33:3). The key to finding the good is to put all our powers of concentration into the three daily prayer services, which correspond to the three patriarchs and the three festivals. This is how we fill ourselves with Godly awareness so as to "know this day and put it into your heart that HaShem is God...."
Rebbe Nachman's discussion in this discourse about observance of the festivals as the way to bring da'at into the heart seems to be related to his discussion of the festivals in his discourse on "The Ravens" (Likutey Moharan II, 4:6), which was given later in the same year. Rebbe Nachman says there that the key to awe of heaven is to know that everything in the world is governed by God's will, and this is revealed on the three festivals, all of which commemorate the striking revelation of God's providential control over the world in taking the Jewish People out of Egypt, giving us the Torah and surrounding us with clouds of glory in the wilderness. As we have seen, healing is also an important theme in "The Ravens". When we count Shabbat as the first of the festivals, we can also discern a link between the current discourse and that entitled "The days of Chanukah are days of thanksgiving" (Likutey Moharan II, 2) where Rebbe Nachman discusses Shabbat in relation to the concept of perfected speech, i.e. prayer, which is the central theme of the present discourse.
We find repeating pat- terns of triads in this discourse. Having dealt with the three cravings that destroy Jerusalem, Rebbe Nachman now discusses how the three festivals are the remedy for these cravings. Later in the discourse (#10) Rebbe Nachman will discuss three other traits that destroy prayer. This pattern of triads seems to be bound up with the main motif of the discourse, the Throne of Glory, which according to tradition has three main legs (corresponding to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to the sefirot of Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet) and a fourth leg corresponding to King David and to the sefirah of Malkhut. Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet correspond to the elements of Water, Fire and Air, while Malkhut corresponds to the element of Earth.
We have seen that Rebbe Nachman viewed illness as being bound up with disharmony among the four elements of which the body is composed (see Chapters 12 and 19). It seems that the triadic spiritual remedies discussed in this discourse - breaking the three cravings, honoring the three festivals and nullifying the three destroyers of prayer - are designed to restore balance and harmony among the three higher elements of Water, Fire and Air, while the release of prayer from its exile is bound up with the rectification of the Earth element, which for Rebbe Nachman is the main key to healing, as discussed in his discourse, "Sound the Shofar - Faith" (see next chapter). The triads discussed in this discourse may also be related to the "three hands" in each of the three higher worlds, Atzilut, Beriyah and Yetzirah, that sweeten severe judgments in pidyon nefesh (Likutey Moharan I, 180, see p.193).
We see from the present discourse that the redemption of prayer, which is the foundation of healing, depends upon drawing da'at from the head into the heart. This seems to be connected with the idea of bringing healing to the body by vitalizing the pulses governing bodily functioning (the heart) through restoring the flow of spiritual influence from the ten sefirot of Abba (the head), as discussed earlier (see Chapter 12).
The Jews abandoned the advanced material culture of Egypt in favor of the life of the spirit: they went out into the wilderness to receive the Torah. Today we spend money liberally to keep Pesach - it is the most expensive of the festivals - but the climax of Pesach is when we eat lechem oni, the "bread of poverty"! In preparation for the festival we give money for the poor to buy matzot, and we invite all who are hungry to come and eat. Charity rectifies the craving for wealth (Likutey Moharan I, 22:9).
On Shavuot we celebrate the Receiving of the Torah. "This is the Torah - man" (Numbers 19:14). Not only does the Torah teach man how to lift himself above the physicality of this world. It also contains all the secrets of the form of the Supernal Man, in Whose image man was created. Devotion to Torah study is thus the perfect remedy for cravings for the physical human form.
Milk is formed in the breast from nutrients that ultimately derive from the mother's blood. The concept of blood alludes to God's aspect of severity and concealment (gevurot), while milk alludes to His chessed, love and kindness. Prior to the revelation of the Torah, God was almost totally concealed from the world, and his aspect of severity was predominant. But at the time of the Giving of the Torah, God revealed Himself to the Jewish People from every direction, and they saw that even His aspect of limitation and severity is ultimately an expression of His love and kindness. Thus severity turned into kindness and the "blood" turned into "milk." The true milk of God's kindness is the Torah, which is called milk (Song of Songs 4:11). In the light of this, the earlier passage discussing the relationship between the milk a baby drinks and the intensity of his physical desires in later life (#4) can be interpreted not only literally but also on a spiritual plane to refer to the way that the quality of the Torah teachings ("milk") a Jew imbibes from his teacher affects his spiritual outlook and orientation. If the "mother" - the teacher (see Likutey Moharan I, 4:8) - is one of those whose influence is founded on brash self-assertiveness, his teachings will simply fan the flames of his followers' material cravings. The remedy is to turn the gevurot into chassadim by receiving the Torah from the true Tzaddik.
The mitzvah of succah involves eating all our meals in the succah. The concept of the succah is one of constantly striving to attain higher and higher levels of spiritual perception and connection. By bringing the satisfaction of our physical needs within the shade of holiness, we are emphasizing that the true purpose of eating is not merely to gratify our bodily appetites but to give us the strength to pursue our spiritual purpose in this world. The other main mitzvah of Sukkot is that of the four species. We take the etrog (citron), which is a food, but instead of eating it, we put it aside in order to use it for the mitzvah.
The concept of names and words recurs in several places in this discourse. Most important of all is the Name of God. God in Himself is intrinsically unknowable, and only through His Name can we come to know and revere Him. Bound up with the Name of God are the names of the great tzaddikim (Likutey Moharan II, 67). This is because the whole mission of the tzaddikim is to spread the knowledge of God and His Name throughout the world, and indeed the actual names of many of the tzaddikim mentioned in the Bible, Talmud, etc. are associated with the various names of God through gematriot, letter combinations, etc. The main advice in this discourse is that we should attach ourselves to the known leaders of the Jewish People - those who have a "name" - and the central issue is how to distinguish the true leaders from those who owe their name and reputation to brazen self-assertiveness.
When false leaders "have a name" and enjoy notoriety, the effect is to throw the name of the true tzaddikim into shadow, and with it the Name of God. Instead of people honoring God and those who truly fear Him, they give all the honor to false celebrities. The phrase "men with a name" actually refers to Korach and his associates, who although they were initially distinguished leaders, eventually stumbled and tried to besmirch the name of Moses. Korach and his associates were thus the archetypal false leaders of the Jewish People. The false leader fails to inspire his adherents to make genuine efforts to curtail their material cravings: on the contrary, the effect of his teachings is more likely to be to intensify them. Thus the "men with a name" also alludes to our material cravings, which tend to overshadow the spiritual side of our being.
The recurrent theme of names in this discourse is intimately bound up with the theme of healing. Rebbe Nachman discussed the significance of names in various places in his writings (see Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #44 & #95 and Rabbi Nachman's Tikkun pp. 100-4). In these sources we see that a person's vitality is channeled to him through his name, which is rooted in the Name of God, the source of all vitality. Illness is caused by a lack of vitality. This results from a flaw in the flow of vitality from the ten sefirot of Abba, which shine through the letters of the associated Divine Name and vitalize the pulse. The flaw in the flow of energy from Abba may be caused by sin, which causes "men with a name" - materialistic desires - to come to the fore, causing the spiritual to become concealed. The art of healing is to restore the flow of holy vitality to the sick person. This is accomplished by giving honor to God's Name through prayer - to "fear this glorious and awesome Name of the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 28:58).
"It is also written, `And you will eat in plenty and be satisfied and you will praise the name of HaShem your God' (Joel 2:26). The purpose of eating is to give us the strength to come to know God through Torah study and to praise and give thanks to His Name in our prayers and blessings" (Parpara'ot LeChokhmah #7).
The timing of the festivals - days of light - is bound up with the phases of the moon, the luminary God created to light up the darkness of night. The Torah lays down on which date in the month each of the festivals falls, but when the month actually begins depends on the phases of the moon. As long as there was a Sanhedrin (supreme rabbinic court) in Eretz Israel, witnesses who had sighted the new moon would come and testify before the court, after which the head of the court would declare, "Sanctified," and all those present would also call out, "Sanctified." The fixing of the dates of the festivals thus depends upon "calling and announcing" the new moon.
The moon is a recurrent motif in this discourse (see #9 and #14). Unlike the sun, which constantly radiates with light of its own, the moon has no light of its own and sends us only reflected light. While the surface of the moon facing earth is sometimes fully visible, there are other times when it is only partially visible or even disappears completely. The relationship between the sun and the moon parallels the relationship between the upper sefirot - which send a constant flow of Godly light into the worlds - and the sefirah of Malkhut, which has no light of its own and is the focus of a struggle between the forces of holiness on the one hand and those of impurity on the other. At times the earth itself stands in the way of the light radiating from the sun, throwing the moon into shadow. To the extent that the "earth" - physicality and materialism - stand in the way of the flow of light from the higher sefirot, Godliness is concealed in this world and the forces of darkness and unholiness gain the upper hand. On the mystical level, the concept of the phases of the moon is integrally bound up with the struggle between good and evil in this world, which is what gives man his free will.
The power of the three cravings for wealth, food and sexual pleasure is rooted in the concealment of Godliness in this world, and therefore the remedy is to bring the light of da'at into the world. This comes about through honoring the festivals, and we can now understand why they all begin when the moon is either full or waxing, and why the timing of the festivals depends upon the sighting of the new moon, which signifies that the light of the moon is now beginning to increase.
"The ultimate goal of the spiritual pathway explained in this discourse is to come to true humility. Only with humility can one gain any perception of God's glory. Humility is the key to awe and reverence for God, for `the heel of humility is awe of God' (Proverbs 22:4), and when one attains humility, God accepts one's prayers" (Torat Nathan #7).
We thus see that by rectifying the three cravings one already has power over the angels! After the conclusion of the text of this discourse as printed in the Hebrew edition of Likutey Moharan, we find the following: "Regarding prophecy, there is a question, because the angel that sends down prophetic inspiration, i.e. `the angel who saved...' is below the place from which prophecy emanates, for this angel is the Shekhinah [= Malkhut] (see Zohar I, 166, 170, 228b etc.) and the Shekhinah is below the sefirot of Netzach and Hod, which are the sources of prophecy. Profound issues are involved here, because the Shekhinah rises up above them, and it is then that she sends down prophecy, but this is not our current concern."
We saw in Chapter 13 that Rebbe Nachman taught that the spirit of prophecy rests upon the prophet through the "hand" of the "musician" (=simchah, joy), which sifts the "good air," the good spirit, from the bad spirit of depression and animality (Likutey Moharan I, 54:6). The ability to find and see the good is integral to the celebration of the festivals, which are called Yom Tov (good), and which are times of special joy (Deuteronomy 16:14), and this is how we rectify the bad spirit of depression - our animalistic cravings - thereby attaining prophetic inspiration.
When a person experiences cravings, something is lacking. But when a person brings his cravings under control, nothing is lacking: all is harmony and balance.
Someone who yearns to influence others because he is God-fearing and therefore his words are listened to would seem to be the opposite of a false leader. However, it often happens that people begin a career of leadership with the best of intentions but later become corrupted, as happened in the case of Korach, who turned against Moses, and Jeraboam ben Nevat (Kings I, 11-14).
Moses replied to Joshua, "If only all the People of God would be prophets, when God will put His spirit upon them" (Numbers 11:29). The true Tzaddik wants all Jews to come to their ultimate destiny and rise to the level of true prophecy and holy spirit (Parpara'ot LeChokhmah #9).
Having prophetic inspiration does not necessarily mean that one knows the future, but that one has attained an exalted level of holy spirit and attachment to God. "When a person concentrates intently on his prayers, directing his heart to Heaven and pouring out his soul to God as if speaking to Him face to face... this is the spirit of prophecy" (Parpara'ot LeChokhmah #11, and see Likutey Moharan I, 138).
"The redemption of prayer and the release of the souls from the three kinds of servitude discussed below (#10) are one and the same thing" (Biur HaLikutim #26).
Prayer is the very center of Rebbe Nachman's healing path- way. He will point out later (#11) that it was because King Hezekiah redeemed prayer that he was able to put away the Book of Remedies. The true dominion of the Jewish People is exercised through prayer. Today prayer is in exile and its power is largely unknown. But when prayer is redeemed, all Jews will be able to bring about exalted wonders through their prayers, just as the Baal Shem Tov did (Keter Shem Tov #1).
It is noteworthy that in this discourse about the redemption of prayer, Rebbe Nachman alludes to all thirteen intermediate blessings of the main prayer in the Jewish liturgy, the Shemoneh Esrey (Amidah, or standing prayer). The subject of the first blessing is da'at, which Rebbe Nachman speaks about in #5 of this discourse. In the second blessing we ask God to bring us near to His service. Rebbe Nachman discusses the concept of "service" in #9 and #10. Forgiveness for sin, the theme of the third blessing, is discussed in #14, while redemption, the subject of the fourth blessing, is discussed in the current section (#8). Healing, for which we pray in the fifth blessing, is the theme of #9-11, and from Rebbe Nachman's discussion of the relationship between the redemption of prayer and healing, we can understand why the blessing for healing immediately follows the blessing for redemption. Rain, for which we pray in the sixth blessing, is discussed in #12, while the ingathering of the exiles, subject of the seventh blessing, is heralded by the blast of the shofar of redemption (#14 end), and is also bound up with guarding the Covenant, the abuse of which causes divine sparks to be exiled and scattered throughout the creation. Guarding the Covenant is discussed in #10. The discussion about judgment in #14 relates to the eighth blessing for the restoration of our judges, while the references to faith in #10 relate to the ninth blessing against atheists and heretics. The entire discourse is concerned with the tzaddikim, who are the true leaders of the Jewish People, for whom we pray in the tenth blessing. The eleventh blessing is a prayer for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, which is discussed in #4, while the twelfth blessing is a prayer for Mashiach, discussed in #12. The thirteenth intermediate blessing of the Shemoneh Esrey is a general appeal to God to hear our prayers, and prayer is the central theme of this entire discourse.
This verse was spoken to Avimelech when he was sick (see pp. 22-4). Abraham's prayer was for healing.
It seems that some people feel threatened by Rebbe Nachman's warnings against going to doctors because they cannot imagine how illness might be cured without medicine, and they fear that without it they would be left with no weapon with which to combat ill health. But here Rebbe Nachman is saying that when prayer is truly redeemed, medicine simply becomes unnecessary and superfluous because healing can come about through the power of words and prayer alone. If the world is seen as nothing but a mechanistic system determined by inexorable laws of nature, it is certainly hard to imagine how healing can come about through mere words. Yet we all know the power of words to destroy people's happiness and indeed their very lives, and "if you believe you can destroy, believe that you can repair" (Likutey Moharan II, 112).
Rebbe Nachman's teachings in this discourse about the power of words to bring about healing relate to ideas he developed in his discourse, "The days of Chanukah are days of thanksgiving" (Likutey Moharan II, 2) given a few months later, when he discussed how speech is perfected by letting the light of truth radiate to the mouth. "And with perfect speech one can accomplish whatever one wants through words, and one can change nature at will" (ibid. #6).
The kabbalists point out that this phrase alludes to the Shekhinah (Iggeret HaKodesh #25).
The "heavens" symbolize the soul (Sanhedrin 91b). The soul is "made" - cultivated and developed - through the Word of God, i.e. prayer, for by expressing our yearning and desire to serve God in words of prayer, we actualize our spiritual potential (Likutey Moharan I, 31). And it is the soul that brings healing to the body.
Medicinal herbs are amazing and miraculous, but when man depends on them exclusively and allows himself to become their servant, they become as abominable as the objects of idolatrous worship. It is also obvious that when medicines are administered wrongly they can be extremely destructive.
The body is a physical entity, and from Rebbe Nachman's words here it appears that when the body is sick, healing may have to be channeled to it through some physical means. The late Lubavitcher Rebbe, R. Menachem Mendel Shneerson, related: "I heard once from the previous Rebbe that a very sick person came to the Alter Rebbe (R. Shneuer Zalman, the founder of ChaBaD), and he healed him with a piece of shemurah matzah (used to fulfil the mitzvah of eating matzah on the first night of Pesach) and half a glass of water. You see, at any rate there has to be at least some involvement with nature" (Refuah Shelemah p. 33).
Even those who want to depend primarily on faith and prayer for healing still often wonder how much effort they need to make in the physical realm in order to create the necessary "vessel" through which healing energy can be channeled into the body. From the current discourse it seems clear that in Rebbe Nachman's view, the main effort must be in the spiritual realm, and then even one's regular food and drink ("bread and water") can serve as the channel to bring healing energy into the body. On another level, "bread and water" can be seen as an allusion to Torah study and prayer. Thus Rebbe Nachman said, "Happy is the person who eats many chapters of Mishnah (Torah) and drinks many Psalms (prayer)" (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #23).
The root of all is the Word of God, i.e. prayer. Thus Rebbe Nachman teaches that hisbodedus "includes everything, because no matter what one needs in one's service of God... one can put it into words and ask Him for it" (Likutey Moharan II, 25).
As we have seen, bread and water were the food of the Simpleton in Rebbe Nachman's story of the Sophisticate and the Simpleton (Rabbi Nachman's Stories pp. 168-73, and see above pp. 115-6). Rebbe Nachman told this story towards the end of the winter of 1808-9, just a few months after giving the current discourse. The Simpleton's ability to taste all the tastes in the world in his bread and water is clearly related to the concept of grasping the root of all things, i.e. the Word of God, where "everything is unity and there is no difference between bread and water and plants and herbs... and one is able to channel curative powers into bread and water."
The way we actually channel blessing into our literal bread and water and other foods is through the blessings we make over what we eat and drink. Thus Reb Noson writes: "The various blessings we make are the `Word of God.' Through the blessing, the item of food or drink is elevated to its source - the Word of God - and this is the essential purpose of the blessing. This is why, when we make a blessing over our food and drink, we have no need to take anything else in order to be cured of illness. For the blessing itself is a prayer - the concept of prayer includes all our various blessings and expressions of thanksgiving to God. As a prayer, the blessing is the `Word of God,' which is the Supreme Source of all things. When the Supreme Source, the Word of God, is aroused, the individual item over which we make the blessing returns to its source, and here all the powers that are separate in the lower worlds are merged in perfect unity. This is why we need nothing else in order to be healed, because we can draw curative powers into our usual food and drink by means of the Word of God. This is why the verse says, `He will bless your bread and water and remove sickness from within you' - for all the necessary curative powers are drawn into one's regular food and drink" (Torat Nathan #14).
The true service is prayer, but the three forms of servitude Rebbe Nachman discusses here are really slavery. Thus (1) when a person lacks faith that God is in control of everything and provides him with what he needs, he puts his faith in the means by which he makes a living, seeks to be cured of illness, etc. and feels as if he has no option but to do whatever seems necessary to secure what he needs through these means, as if God would not be able to provide his needs through other means. Because of his lack of faith, he becomes a slave to the means. (2) At the outset a person can control his sexual thoughts and desires and turn his mind elsewhere, but if he indulges them, they soon become compulsive and he becomes their slave. By turning the physical body into an object of worship he degrades both the objects of his passions and himself. (3) When a person looks down on others, his false perceptions prevent him from viewing the world as it really is and seeing God's glory in all people. Instead, he becomes a slave to his own misconceptions. In addition, "Anyone who tarnishes others is himself tarnished" (Kiddushin 70a), and by looking down on others, he is really looking down on himself and putting himself into the category of an inferior, a slave. These three traits are an insult to the dignity of man, Adam, and those who are sunken in them are therefore unable to "take hold of the throne," which is the "seat" of the Supernal Man, in Whose image man is made. "These three forms of servitude are themselves responsible for the exile of prayer, causing prayer itself to seem weighty and burdensome. As Rebbe Nachman said earlier in the discourse (#8): `When they stand up to pray, they want to get it over with.' Prayer itself comes to be experienced as a form of servitude!" (Biur HaLikutim #25).
Reb Noson writes: "It is striking that the Rebbe enumerates sexual desire twice in this discourse: the first time as one of the three cravings that destroy Jerusalem, and the second time as one of the three forms of `service' that spoil prayer. But there is an important difference between the three kinds of slavery discussed here and the three cravings discussed earlier. For the three forms of slavery are traits that must be totally broken and removed. On the other hand, the three cravings for wealth, food and sexual satisfaction contain both good and evil, and our task is to sift out the good while rejecting the evil. Thus greed for wealth is certainly evil, but we need money in order to provide for our true needs and to keep the mitzvot. Similarly, excessive indulgence even in permitted sexual activity with one's spouse is destructive, yet the sexual relationship is one of the foundations of married life and is obviously indispensable in order to fulfil the command to `be fruitful and multiply,' and we must do so in holiness and purity. So too, overindulgence in food is evil, yet it is impossible to survive without food, and we must eat with dignity and holiness, especially on Shabbat and the festivals. But when it comes to the three forms of slavery, idolatry, immorality and despising others, we must totally remove them from ourselves. Even a seemingly minor flaw in faith is tantamount to idolatry and must be removed. In the same way we must totally cleanse our minds of all sexual thoughts and desires that involve forms of sexual activity that are not permitted by Torah law. And so too, we must certainly never despise anyone in the world..." (Torat Nathan #11).
Reb Noson writes: "This applies to the way we look at ourselves as well. Just as we must not despise others, in the same way we must not look down upon ourselves. For we don't even know our own place, let alone the place of anyone else. For we certainly do not know the root cause of everything we have gone through in all our incarnations, or the true source of all our evil thoughts and desires. For this reason, we must never give up hope or criticize ourselves excessively and lose our self-respect. On the contrary, we must judge ourselves positively" (Torat Nathan #13). As we have seen, searching for one's good points in order to attain simchah is an integral part of Rebbe Nachman's healing pathway (see pp.163ff.).
When Noah became drunk and was uncovered in his tent, his son Ham, the father of Canaan, "saw the nakedness of his father," and, according to the Rabbis, castrated him or lay with him (Genesis 9:22 and Rashi ad loc.), which is why Noah cursed him. Thus Ham, whose name means "hot" or "passionate," is associated with sexual misdemeanor.
Rebbe Nachman summed up the essence of the healing pathway elaborated in this discourse in the first item in the chapter on Healing in his Aleph-Bet Book: "Know that each herb has a unique power to heal a particular illness. But all this is only for the person who has failed to guard his faith and morality and has not been careful to avoid transgressing the prohibition against despising others (Avot 4:3). But when someone has perfect faith, guards himself morally, and lives by the principle of not looking down on anyone at all, his healing does not depend on the specific herbs that have the power to cure his illness. Such a person can be healed through any food and any drink, as it is written, `And He will bless your bread and your water, and remove sickness from you' (Exodus 23:25). Such a person does not have to wait until the specific remedy for his illness is available" (Aleph-Bet Book, Healing #1).
Rebbe Nachman's statements in this section of the discourse bear out our earlier contention (p. 218) that he did accept, at least in principle, that medicines have the power to cure.
It is nothing but miraculous that our bodies are constantly prey to all kinds of incipient illnesses, yet in most cases they are cured before anything serious develops. This is what we thank God for in the Nishmat prayer: "You spared us from severe, numerous and enduring diseases" (Shabbat and festival liturgy). Nevertheless, we are usually unaware of the extent of such miracles, because "the person for whom a miracle is performed does not recognize the miracle" (Niddah 31a).
Rebbe Nachman's discussion here helps us to understand the wording of the blessing after relieving oneself (Asher yatzar...): "It is revealed and known before Your Throne of Glory that if just one [of the many openings and cavities in the body] were to be ruptured or blocked, it would be impossible to survive and stand before You even for a brief moment." This is revealed and known before God's Throne of Glory, but it is not revealed to anyone else, because God alone knows of it! The reference in the blessing to the Throne of Glory also becomes understandable from this discourse.
Clearly Rebbe Nachman's pathway in this discourse is one of prevention just as much as cure. It is true that Rebbe Nachman endorsed the use of medical means of prevention in the case of the smallpox vaccination (see above pp. 203f.). Yet it is evident from this discourse that he viewed the spiritual pathway elaborated here as being the true foundation of good health and prevention. This point of view is virtually identical with that of the Ramban, who wrote: "When the Jewish People are in a state of spiritual perfection, their physical bodies... are not governed by nature at all. This applies to the nation as a whole and to each individual Jew. For God `will bless their bread and their water, and remove illness from their midst.' They will have no need for doctors, nor will they have to follow medical procedures even as precautionary measures, `For I, God, am your healer'" (Ramban, Commentary on the Torah, Leviticus 26:11; see above p. 195).
Rebbe Nachman does not seem to give an explicit explanation of how to overcome these three forms of servitude, but the answer is implicit: through striving to follow the spiritual pathway taught by the true Tzaddik, who is totally clean of all three traits, and is the perfect exemplar of faith and purity, and judges everyone favorably.
The few lines printed here in parentheses are printed in the Hebrew version of Likutey Moharan as a gloss at the side of the main text. The point expressed here is of the utmost importance, because it proves that the pathway explained in this discourse is not only one of health and prevention but also one of actual healing from fully developed illnesses. It is difficult to understand why such an important point was inserted as a gloss rather than being incorporated in the main text. It is out of the question that Reb Noson, who authored the glosses on Likutey Moharan, would have inserted such a comment on his own initiative unless he was perfectly certain that Rebbe Nachman had made this statement. Possibly Rebbe Nachman did not make it when he originally taught the discourse on Rosh Hashanah 1808, but instructed Reb Noson to add it when he subsequently brought his transcription to the Rebbe for checking, as he usually did. (There are numerous other places in Likutey Moharan where we find that Rebbe Nachman made emendations and additions to his discourses after they had been transcribed.) Of course, if the whole world followed this pathway as a way of life, no illness would ever develop, and then indeed the fact that this pathway also has the power to cure actual illnesses would indeed become merely academic.
A person feels shame when he becomes aware of his own shortcomings, especially in an area in which he previously experienced feelings of pride. The implication is that spiritual healing is superior to any medical cure. The idea that medicine has no power when prayer is redeemed seems to be linked with Rebbe Nachman's teaching that in time to come, when the world will be seen to be governed only through divine providence and prayer, the natural order will no longer operate as such, for (Isaiah 51:6) "the heavens will vanish away like smoke and the earth will be worn out like a garment" (cf. Likutey Moharan I, 250; see Supplementary Readings. The shame of the doctors over the powerlessness of their remedies is parallel to the shame experienced by the false leaders in the face of the true Master of Prayer as discussed in #13 of the discourse.
This idea is connected with Rebbe Nachman's teaching that "when the summer begins to approach, it is very good to meditate in the fields... When every bush of the field begins to return to life and grow, they all yearn to be included in prayer and meditation" (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #98 and cf. ibid. #144 & #227, and Likutey Moharan II, 11). Reb Noson writes: "The idea that the various forces in the lower worlds, such as the herbs and plants and the angels above them, are obliged to give back their power to its source, the Word of God, is connected with the kabbalistic concept that the lower worlds rise up step by step through our prayers until they become merged with their source, for the multiple powers down below must all rise upwards and return to their unitary source, which is the Word of God, i.e. prayer" (Torat Nathan #8).
Reb Noson also writes: "The main thing is that whenever a person derives any kind of energy or vitality from things in this world, such as when he eats or drinks, wears clothes, uses money, etc., he must know and believe that everything derives from the `Word of God,' i.e. the prayers of the true tzaddikim. For everything in the world ultimately comes from the earth: everything that grows comes from the earth, as do silver and gold and everything else. The earth in turn receives everything it gives us from higher powers, all of which receive and borrow from one another, until eventually all of them borrow from the Great Lender. Therefore anyone who takes anything from the world is receiving it in the form of a loan - a loan that he must pay back to the Great Lender. The way to repay him is by pouring all the strength and vitality gained from what he has taken from the world into his prayers. He must bind his prayers to the Great Lender, so that his prayers, together with all the power and energy they contain, will become part of the prayer of the Great Lender. The prayer of the Tzaddik then has the power to rise higher and higher, and sends greater and greater power back into the lower worlds. The more people pay their debts to the Tzaddik, who is the Great Lender, the more he is able to channel blessing and goodness back into the world. The recipients must then return all this power to the Tzaddik, who can then in turn channel ever greater blessings and goodness back into the world. If everyone were to play their part in this, the Jewish People would again enjoy all goodness and blessing!" (ibid. #10)
"The pathway explained in this discourse, which is intended to lead to the repair of the whole world, was begun by King David, who gave birth to Solomon, שלמה, ShLoMoH (the Hebrew letters of whose name spell out המשל, HaMoSheL, the Ruler). Shlomo sat upon the throne and ruled over the angels above as well as all the hosts in the lower worlds. Nevertheless the ultimate rectification, which is nothing less than the establishment of God's kingdom upon earth and the dominion of Israel, can be completed only by Mashiach" (Biur HaLikutim #22).
cf. Likutey Moharan I, 2 for the concept of the long breath of patience.
The Hebrew for scent is ריח (ReYaCh). This word is made up of the same letters as the ירח (YaReiaCh), the moon. As we have seen, the moon is one of the most important recurrent motifs in this discourse (see note #28). Of Mashiach it is written, "VehaReYCho - his delight will be in the fear of God" (Isaiah 11:3). Mashiach's task is to bring the world to know God - i.e. to bring da'at from the "head" down into the "heart." This is accomplished through prayer, the rectification of which depends upon honoring the three festivals, which are fixed according to the phases of the moon.
People often wonder how Mashiach will be universally accepted by all the different groups within the Jewish People, such as the Ashkenazim and Sefardim, Chassidim (Belzer, Gerer, Satmar, Vishnitzer...), Mitnagdim, Conservative, Reform, nonaffiliated, etc. Here Rebbe Nachman indicates that Mashiach will have a unique grace that will endear him in the eyes of all.
"Only the Master of Prayer himself understands how their brazen shamelessness falls away in his presence, for this happens on a highly subtle spiritual level, and only temporarily. For immediately afterwards [the false leaders] stand up against him once more and try to stir up opposition against him" (Parpara'ot LeChokhmah #14). Thus we find that Moshe Rabbenu suffered repeated episodes of opposition during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, for example the revolt caused by the report of the spies and the rebellion of Korach.
See Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #44.
"The root of all the remedies discussed in this discourse is Rosh Hashanah, which is the first of the Ten Days of Repentance, i.e. the start of repentance. For the truth is that the first step toward repentance is very hard and burdensome. It is so hard to know where to start. The way to conquer our cravings for wealth, food and sexual pleasure is by celebrating the festivals in holiness and purity, but how can we do so when we are still sunk in our material cravings? This is why the root of this whole pathway is Rosh Hashanah, when we start serving God" (Torat Nathan #16).
Rebbe Nachman's teaching of "Azamra - I will sing!" (Likutey Moharan I, 282) is based on the verse (Psalms 37:10): "And in a little bit the sinner is not; you shall reflect upon his place and he will not be there." "In a little bit" - in virtue of a tiny redeeming good point - "the sinner is not" - he is no longer a sinner! The key to finding the redeeming points is to "reflect on his place," and consider the circumstances that caused him to become what he is. But even while taking his situation into account as it appears to us, we must be aware that "a person's true place is not determined merely by his place and situation in this world, but by the deepest roots of his soul, which lie in the Throne of Glory. These are known only to God and to those who have followed the pathway explained in this discourse to the ultimate level" (Biur HaLikutim #34).
"The moon was made smaller because she was jealous of the sun. This links with the jealousy of the angels, which causes the souls of Israel to become `smaller' because of the material cravings they inject into them. The fact that all our sins are ultimately rooted in this primordial sin of jealousy provides us with an argument in our defense, and we can now ask for atonement" (Biur HaLikutim #28).
Reb Noson writes: "All the concepts in this discourse are tightly bound together. The underlying concept is that of the waning and waxing of the moon. For the three traits that destroy the reverence in the heart are rooted in the dark side of the moon, which is the source of the power of the sitra achra, the unholy side of creation, and the root of all evil cravings, especially these three. It is because they are rooted in the dark side of the moon that the Talmud refers to them as the three watches of the night. They destroy the reverence in the heart, which is `Jerusalem,' `Malkhut,' the `small light.' The diminution of the moon is rectified by the festivals, which are a concept of full light as opposed to shadow. Through honoring the festivals we can come to prophetic spirit and prayer. All this is accomplished through the rectification of the moon and of Malkhut, which is the source of the angel that sends prophecy....
"In the Rebbe's discussion about how the lower planets borrow from the higher stars, it could be asked why he takes as his example the way that the moon borrows from the sun. The answer to this question is that the heavenly order as a whole is patterned after this borrowing by the moon from the sun. The underlying concept is the diminution of Malkhut: the darkness of the moon represents the concealment of God's kingship, the Word of God, and then all have to borrow, one from the other. But when God's kingship, the Word of God, is revealed, all the loans are annulled, because it is then revealed that there is really no law of nature at all but that all receive only from the Great Lender, the Word of God, and `His kingship rules over all.' Just as the highest spheres receive from the Word of God, so does the lowliest blade of grass. For the Master of Prayer reveals God's kingship down below in this lowly world. This is the ultimate perfection of the moon. And then all the herbs return their power to their root, the Word of God. And then Mashiach can shine forth.
"The waxing of the moon symbolizes the dominion of Mashiach. For when Mashiach comes, the Jewish People will be renewed like the moon, and then `the light of the moon will be like the light of the sun.' And then one can celebrate Rosh Hashanah, because Rosh Hashanah falls on Rosh Chodesh, the New Moon, when God Himself asks for atonement, as it were, giving us an opening to ask for atonement. Thus Rosh Hashanah itself depends on the rectification of the moon..." (Torat Nathan #4).
Length of days, without illness!
BACK TO WINGS OF THE SUN HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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