Guest Posting By Rabbi Micha Golshevsky - Practical Azamra
"Every Jew is a chelek Elokah mima'al, a 'piece of G-d above.' It is absolutely inconceivable that any Jew is truly wicked. The only reason a wicked person seems totally evil, chas v'shalom, is because we are blind to his good points."
These are the words of Rav Avraham ben Rav Nachman regarding Azamra, the only lesson that Rebbe Nachman exhorted his followers to "go with" every single day. As Rebbe Nachman taught, "Most people are distant from Hashem primarily because of feelings of depression brought on by their sins, and so they don't even do the good they easily could... Therefore, one must continuously search for good points and attain vitality and happiness through them..."
But this is easier said than done. How is one to find the good points in oneself, let alone anyone else?
Another even more pressing question is: Isn't it likely that the bad outweighs the good even within an average person? Certainly, the bad in a person who appears wicked in our eyes outweighs the good? So what is there to be happy about anyway? So what if I find a dinged and dented good point, or even a few of them? How can they compensate for all the bad?
This question is not only on Rebbe Nachman but the Talmud as well. Does not the Talmud state that even the sinners among the Jewish people are filled with mitzvos as a pomegranate is filled with seeds?
Not surprisingly, the Ramchal's explanation of this Chazal sheds much light on Azamra. He writes that every soul must have spiritual sustenance to survive after death. However, in Hashem's kindness, even a little spiritual sustenance is enough to prevent a soul from being completely destroyed. Only a soul that truly lacks good has no spiritual life force and dies. Chazal meant that Providence protects Jews and ensures that every Jewish soul always has the minimal amount of good and is ensured vitality after death.
Rebbe Nachman explains that every good deed is forever. Rav Nosson even brings the Zohar which states that, "no good desire is ever lost," to explain Rebbe Nachman's emphasis on the importance of holy yearning.
Rav Avraham ben Rav Nachman takes this to its logical conclusion. Every good point is eternal and every sin, no matter how serious, is finite. As is well known, in Jewish tradition there is no such thing as eternal purgatory. Either one is cleansed for a limited time or, if there is no redeeming feature like in the case of Amalek, one is destroyed. Therefore, even the smallest good deed or sincere desire outweighs the greatest sins. Not that the purification process for any sin is fun in this world or the next. Why not rectify our sins through teshuvah while there's still time?
He explains that this is also the rationale behind Rebbe Nachman's famous declaration: "It is a great mitzvah to always be joyous!" The joy in our good points is a very potent method to heal the spiritual sicknesses of "weaklings" like ourselves, who populate the present generation.
The only difference is in the quality and potency of the connection. Every spiritual gain is wealth beyond measure in the next world. But every spiritual loss is also a loss for all eternity.
The Ramak uses a similar rationale to explain why good doesn't cancel out bad. After all, one might question the need to suffer the cleansing of the bad only to be rewarded afterward for all the good. Why not remove the suffering by canceling out some good instead?
He compares this to a priceless gem that got soiled in the dirt. No matter how soiled, one would never just "junk" the gem. It is worth any effort or toil to remove the dirt and keep a valuable jewel. How can one exchange any spiritual gem of eternity for the dirt of sin that can simply be removed?
Every single good desire or act is with us for all eternity. If we search honestly, we will find literally thousands of good points in ourselves and everyone else.
Now that we understand the power of every single good point, we can understand why if someone appears to be truly evil it is only because we have not searched enough for the good points.
How did we fail to see the good within him? How could we think for an instant that his bad outweighs even one good point?
One time Rav Nosson was telling over Azamra. As he made each point, his disciple Rav Nachman Tulchiner repeated after him in a fiery undertone, "Avadah, avadah. Absolutely, absolutely!" When Rav Nosson noticed he turned to him and said, "You think this is so easy? I will explain the difficulty in this. Don't forget that Rebbe Nachman states in the lesson that through practicing this lesson on others they are truly lifted up to the side of merit and repent their sins. If we followed this teaching properly, we would be able to bring the entire world to teshuvah.
Once someone asked Rebbe Nachman: what about a rasha gamur? How can one possibly see the good in him?"
"How can you even say that about another Jew?" Rebbi Nachman cried, "He surely has some form of good point in which he is not wicked!"
Hashem should help us fulfill this holy teaching and bring ourselves, and the entire world, to repentance!
Rabbi Micha Golshevsky's blog A Fire Burns in Breslov can be seen here.