Monday, September 08, 2008

Avoda For The Common Man - Part II

(Painting by Zvi Malnovitzer)

In several places throughout his sefer, the Degel Machaneh Ephraim teaches that a person only experiences problems and deficiencies in his life because of a corresponding deficiency in the Shechinah (the Divine Presence).

The Degel then explains that a person can only rectify his own personal problems by davening for the sake of the Shechinah. While in Parshas Vayeira, he states that a tzaddik understands how to daven in such a manner, in Parshas Beshalach and Parshas Terumah he does not make mention that this must be done by a tzaddik.

I asked Rabbi Tal Zwecker if davening for the sake of the Shechinah could be done by the common person or if it was considered to be an avoda solely for tzaddikim? Rabbi Zwecker recalled that he had addressed this question quite thoroughly in one of his past postings, however, he also had the opportunity to ask the Sudilkover Rebbe about this issue on Shabbos Shelach at the Bostoner Beis Medrash in Ramat Beit Shemesh. The Sudilkover Rebbe told him that he agreed with what he had written in the posting and remarked that this topic was also addressed in Likutey Moharan.

Likutey Moharan II:120 states:

You should not try to follow the Kabbalistic devotions of the Arizal even if you have started to study his writings. The only people to whom these devotions apply are those who have already attained such a level that for them these devotions are the plain meaning of the words! This is the level of the truly great tzaddikim. But all other people should simply concentrate on the straightforward meaning of the prayers.

Thanks to Rabbi Tzvi Aryeh Adler, Rabbi Zwecker also provided me with some additional sources on the issue of avodas for the common man:

Likutei Halachos, Yoreh Deah, Hilchos Shiluach HaKen 4 teaches that a person who has not sanctified and purified the body should totally disregard the thoughts which attempt to mix him up and bother him during davening.

Rabbi Zwecker commented,

"This seems to indicate that you could become a tzaddik one day and then you could work on these things, however one must remember that in my previous post we quoted the Baal HaTanya's opinion, that the Baal HaTanya believes that tzaddikim are born and not made. You can become a beinoni but never a tzaddik. Therefore this would seem to be a dispute between Chabad and Breslov. In Chabad, tzaddikim are born and not made, and this type of avoda is for tzaddikim only. In Breslov although this avoda is for tzadikim only, you should strive to sanctify and purify yourself to reach that level and then it will be your avoda as well!"

Sfas Emes, Parshas Chukas, teaches, however, that the common man may sometimes achieve even more than the tzaddik:

"The song about the well indicates that although great tzaddikim originally dug the well, the simple people who had a desire and yearning to serve Hashem where the ones who completed the task. This is because once the great tzaddikim have opened a passageway and dug a well, the simple people can also achieve what is on their level. Therefore their digging is called Kriah and is even deeper. And it may be that the simple man digs even deeper than the tzaddik and draws down light to even the lowest realms and levels that even tzadikim cannot reach. "

Additionaly, Noam Elimelech, Parshas Metzora states,

"When a wicked person repents from grave sins, like theft or promiscuity, Heaven forbid, nothing stands in his way since "nothing stands in the way of teshuvah". When such a person does complete teshuvah, repenting completely for his past errors, he can even uplift the tzaddik's prayers that have fallen due to some slight ulterior motive or distraction. This is the meaning of "In a place where the ba'al teshuvah stands, not even the completely righteous can stand." The ba'al teshuvah is on a loftier level than even the tzaddik, since he can even uplift the Torah and prayer of the tzaddik which has fallen, as we said."


At September 8, 2008 at 6:53:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this blog is so interesting!

At September 8, 2008 at 7:12:00 AM EDT, Blogger chanie said...

I would beg to differ on one point only. In Tanya, although it states that not everyone can be a tzaddik, it also states that one should make an attempt to implement in his daily life what a tzaddik does automatically. Through this, it is possible for a beinoni to attain the level of a tzaddik (ch.13/14.

I would say that on this point, Chabad and Breslov do not disagree, but rather, say the same thing in two different ways.

However, Chabad does say that one should not expect of himself to automatically succeed, and that one who sees himself as despicable because he did not succeed is arrogant, since he obviously does not recognize how far away from being a tzaddik he truly is.

At September 8, 2008 at 10:49:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Tanya's beinoni is a very high level, according to the Tanya he doesn't sin, because a sinner is a Rasha.

Most people would label the Tanya's beinoni as a tzadik.

Either way the Tanya definitely understands that even though the level of beinoni is very high and holy and we should always be striving to be an oved Hashem, still Tzadikim are unique in their avodah a level that cannot and SHOULD NOT be attempted by beinonim or common men. Because the Tanya is critical of those non-tzadikim who try to do avodah that is for Tzadikim he calls them fools a Shoteh.

Obviously if Rebbe Noson wrote in Likutey Halachos that we should strive to purify and sanctify ourselves and then reach the proper level we will then be able to do these types of avodah, he believes that Rebbe Nachman's Torah about avodas haTzadik are attainable by us. Thus Tzadikim can be made and are not only born that way. This is a difference of opinion that I cannot see resolved. Since as I said the Tanya would call us shotim for doing that.

At September 8, 2008 at 12:07:00 PM EDT, Blogger Long Beach Chasid said...

Great article. Its interesting to see how the Polish and Russian Chasidim see things differently

At September 8, 2008 at 12:49:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to throw in my "two cents": with all due respect to Long Beach Chassid, I don't think this refelects a difference between Polish and Russian Chassidus, but between Chabad specifically and some other great Chassidic Rebbes specifically.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, too, wrote that this issue was a point of disagreement between Reb Nachman and the Baal HaTanya.

However, I'm not sure if we are seeing a difference in shittah or in "strategy" -- how ideas are phrased and presented to different kinds of people.

In any case, it seems to me that you could resolve this seeming difference in shittah by taking a careful look at what each of these great Chassidic masters states. In chapter 14 of Tanya, the Alter Rebbe of Chabad clues us in on the spiritual "loophole" that allows the beinoni to partake of the divine perceptions and inner wholeness of the tzaddik. This loophole is the kabbalistic mystery of "ibbur neshamos," souls that fuse with one another -- like a woman who bears another life in her womb. If an ordinary person by virtue of his determined avodah becomes worthy of this divine gift, his soul may become "impregnated" or fused with the soul of a tzaddik with whom he shares the same soul-root. And then he, too, will enter into the geder / category of the tzaddikim.

Perhaps Reb Nachman implies this very same principle in saying, "I can make you tzaddikim k'moni mamash" literally "just like me." What does he mean by this? Consider what he says in his Tale of the Seven Beggars, when each beggar confers his blessing on the wedding couple to be "just like him" in acquiring the spiritual power the beggar exemplifies.

Could this point toward the Baal HaTanya's factor of "ibbur neshamos?" If so, it would resolve the apparent difference in viewpoint between these two Chassidic giants.

At September 8, 2008 at 1:18:00 PM EDT, Blogger Long Beach Chasid said...

Yasher Koach. That was an beautiful explanation. However if it is true that it is merely a different way to understand the same thing because no two minds are alike, then why do "certain chasidim" say that their Rebbe's and their seforim are the only true chassidus?


At September 8, 2008 at 1:21:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great idea. Yasher koach.

Ibbur neshamos is taught in Sha'ar HaGilgulim from the Arizal, but I personally think that Rebbe Nachman meant simply that through avoda, working on your middos, learning and hisbodedus with teshuva and tefillah with ahava and yirah you yourself can become a tzadik without needing any loopholes.

At September 8, 2008 at 1:41:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Long Beach Chassid:

Chassidim are enthusiastic people and tend to get carried away!

Don't forget, in Chayei Moharan the Rebbe recounts a dream in which a former follower came to him to complain about how lost he felt, and the first thing the Rebbe did was suggest that he try to become the follower of some other great tzaddikim.

Even the "shpitz idea" of tzaddik emes does not negate the fact that there are other great tzaddikim and derakhim in avodas Hashem. The Rebbe himself greatly praised many of his contemporaries, including both the Baal HaTanya and Reb Avraham Kalisker and the Berditchover Rov, and other lofty tzaddikim who preceded him such as the Baal Shem Tov and the Noam Elimelech and the Toldos and the Degel, etc.

Maybe this is a bechinah of the "aspeklaria ha-meirah" and the "aspeklaria she-eino meirah" -- it is a matter of the degree of clarity, not an either/or situation.

And who are we to know, anyway?

If the Eybishter put us spiritual invalids in the waiting room of the greatest doctor, this is an act of divine grace, not because we have the "tzaddikim barometer!"

Rabbi Zwecker:

I don't insist on my theory; maybe you're right. But one of my first teachers in Breslov, Rabbi Chaim Man, once told me that whenever we are confronted by a machlokes in shittah, we should try to be machria the seemingly opposing de'os -- like Chazal -- and only conclude that there is a genuine disagreement if we can't find a hachra'ah. Reb Gedaliah Kenig also once told Reb Dovid Shapiro that he strongly doubted if there was any difference in shittah between Chassidus Chabad and Breslov.

So this is just my "two cents" on this one!

At September 8, 2008 at 3:50:00 PM EDT, Blogger tea mad hatter said...

Hi Great article!!
i seem to remember (please correct me if this is not true) a story that Rebbe Nachman said of the Tanya that he disagreed with 2 points (??). i have always wondered if the seemingly different approach to what a Tzaddik is could be one of them?

At September 9, 2008 at 1:06:00 AM EDT, Blogger Rambler said...

It bothers me that people are assuming that there is a difference of opinion between Breslov and Chabad where none exists. Tanya specificaly says that one must strive to be a tzaddik, and Hashem may grant him a gift of making him one. The point is not that one cannot become a tzaddik, the point is that not everyone will become a tzaddik no matter how hard they try unless Hashem has chosen them, so they should not feel bad if they aren't a tzaddik because there was nothing they could have done. But certainly some people DO become tzaddikim, even if they weren't born that way. The main point of the article, that there are some forms of prayer meant only for tzaddikim is certainly something Chabad agrees with. This is mentioned explicitly in Tanya, when it warns against trying to turn one's foreign thoughts during prayer into holiness, since this is only for tzaddikim. Rather one should just ignore them.

At September 9, 2008 at 11:03:00 AM EDT, Blogger tea mad hatter said...

could it be that the definition of a tzaddik is different? there are times where the Rebbe says that all his chassidim are tzaddikim. look in truth, its all very theoretical, speaking for myself, i will be happy to just crack "good" jew never mind tzaddik.
but there really does seem to be a difference in approach

At September 9, 2008 at 11:12:00 AM EDT, Blogger Long Beach Chasid said...

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