Lecture of Rav Eliezer Berland, shlit”a,
delivered on Sunday, the 19th of Av 5760 in the Old City,
The Chariots of Pharaoh and His Legions [Likutei Moharan
A person has to check to see whether or not he is
connected to Hashem. “And singers and dancers alike shall say, All my interest
is in You.” (Tehillim 87:7) Divine service is attachment to G-d.
This is why people must wear tefillin all day long—because tefillin are
a sign of a person’s level of attachment to G-d.
This is what the Rebbe says: rectification of speech
is achieved only when one learns Torah in difficulty—when it is difficult
for a person to learn. Only this kind of learning, when it is a struggle,
raises speech up to its source. This is alluded to in the word “af”
(anger). “Only (af) my wisdom stayed with me” (Koheles 2:9).
This refers only to the Torah that one learns in anger. The Talmud Bavli
is called night. “He placed me in dark places like those who are long ago
dead” (Eichah 3:6). “Dark places” means the Talmud Bavli; it is
One must raise up the night. If it hadn’t been for
the Tree of Knowledge, there would have been no night. They would have
been able to use the “great light.” The fact that they lost the “great
light” was because of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. The Gemara
is a rectification for the night. The time to learn it is at night. If
a person is up learning at night, a chut shel chessed [a thread
of loving kindness] is drawn down to him during the day. One must learn
the plain meaning of the Gemara. When Rabbeinu speaks about learning at
night, he means the study of Gemara.
It says in Likutei Moharan I:3, one must
learn Gemara. People need to know that Breslov does not contradict the
study of Gemara. Breslov and Gemara are one thing. The Rebbe says in lesson
3 that one must learn Gemara. Rectification of the six rings of cartilage
in the trachea comes about through the study of Gemara, in particular.
There are two birds within the realm of klippah [the impure husks], all
the non-kosher melodies come from the two birds that are within the realm
of klippah. A person hears songs on the buses or from the neighbors. The
rectification of this is achieved by studying Gemara at night. Specifically
Gemara. The Gemara has six orders, and they rectify the six rings of the
When a person learns Torah at night, the following
day is illuminated. This is the “morning of Avraham.” The night is mainly
for the study of Gemara. “And the people were sent” (Bereishis 44:3)—then
all the judgments of that day are nullified. Every day, the judgments are
renewed. By getting up early before the sky is the color of techeiles,
then all the judgments are nullified. Techeiles is the aspect of
judgment. When you go with techeiles on the tzitzis, it cancels
all of the judgments [Likutei Moharan I:49, paragraph 7]. “Consume
(kalei) them in wrath, consume them that they may be no more” (Tehillim
59:14). “Techeiles comes from the root ‘kal,’ for it
consumes (achlei) everything (kol) and destroys everything.”
If a person learns Torah at night, he is able to
sing during the day. His speech becomes like a song. He builds up speech—he
builds up the structure of speech—and then he can pray. When a person comes
to pray, he has no letters—he has no words. But by learning Gemara, he
builds up the structure of Malchut, of speech. Malchut is
speech. Zeir Anpin is sound, and Malchut is speech.
Rachel is speech. “G-d, do not hold your silence” (Tehillim 83:2).
Anpin is sound. Leah is the breath that comes out of the mouth. Rachel
is speech, and Zeir Anpin is sound. A person must build up
the structure of speech, that he should have words. A person can talk twenty-four
hours a day, but it is just idle talk. Speaking about Torah and praying
are built up specifically through learning Gemara. “G-d, do not hold
your silence.” “That my glory might sing praise to You, and not be silent”
(Tehillim 30:13). Do not be silent, that we should be able
to sing all of the prayers to Hashem.
We started the Morning Prayer today at 4:45 AM,
from 4:45 until 7:45—three hours. During this time, we just praised Hashem.
A person should have the words (speech), to praise Hashem for three hours,
as “when the morning stars sang together” (Iyov 38:7). This
is the aspect of “When our feet stood within your gates, Yerushalayim”
(Tehillim 122), for Yerushalayim is speech. “Speak to the heart
of Yerushalayim.” Speech and “feet” are the same thing. “Righteousness
met wherever He set His foot” (Yeshaya 41:2), and “Speak righteousness”
(Tehillim 58:2). “The gates of Yerushalayim” and the Torah
are called Yerushalayim. This is when a person raises speech
to its source, to the gevurot, “and talks of Your power” (Tehillim
145:11). For, speech is within the gevurot; speech comes from
the left side. Someone who is paralyzed on the left side is unable to speak,
because the gevurot are on the left side.
The five fingers allude to the five gevurot.
“And he starts to speak between himself and his Maker with the fire of
He begins to speak with a fiery enthusiasm, with “the fire of gevurot,
“ “and he arouses himself to the service of Hashem.” Speaking with gevurot
is called speaking the truth. If a person whispers the prayers, it is not
called speaking words of truth. Words of truth are spoken with gevurot.
“Then the light of the source of
gevurot enters”—that is the heatedness
in the heart: the heart becomes heated. The heart becomes heated because
there is a point of truth. When there is a point of truth, then the
heart becomes heated, and Rachel ascends. Rachel descends, after Ma’ariv,
after the evening prayers. Every day, after the evening prayers,
Rachel descends into the world of Briyah, where she remains until
midnight. When a person begins then to cry out over Hashem’s destroyed
House—to cry out, to pray Tikkun Chatzot, crying out at the graves
of Tzaddikim—and to study Torah, all of this raises Rachel up. Until,
when the light of day comes, she reaches—she ascends—to the level of two-thirds,
which is Tiferes. That is where her Keter is: two-thirds
up the “height” of Zeir Anpin. She reaches until she is facing the
left “arm,” and this is the tefillin. The tefillin of the hand is actually
the tefillin of [the head of] Rachel.
It says in the Eitz Chayim that the light
of the tefillin bursts out upon the “forehead” of Rachel. This is
the secret of “He made for them houses” (Shemos 1:21). By
virtue of their having given life to the infants, Miriam and Yocheved were
promised the light of tefillin [batim]. The woman has the
light of tefillin bursting forth in her head. In the morning, she merits
to have the light of tefillin encircling her head. Then her husband puts
on the tefillin of the arm, and this is, really, the “encircling light”
that surrounds the head of Rachel. The tefillin that burst forth
on the “forehead” of Rachel, are a manifestation of the “returning light”.
The lights returned the way they had come and went back to the place from
where they emanated in Rachel, and they caused the tefillin to emerge on
her forehead. The tefillin of the arm—the tefillin of the arm of
Rashi—is the light that bursts forth in the forehead of Rachel. Since her
husband learned all night long, she merits to have a special light burst
forth in her forehead in the morning. And, if she herself went to the Kotel—if
she herself said Tehillim—then a special light certainly bursts out within
It breaks out in the forehead, and this light is
gathered together by the tefillin, by the tefillin of the arm. The knot
of the tefillin is the mochin. The knot of the tefillin of the head
is the mochin of Leah. The knot of the tefillin parallels the head
of Leah, the Keter of Leah. The knot of the tefillin of the head
is the intermediary between the tefillin of the arm and the head, and the
knot is where the mochin of Leah are. And, the tefillin of the arm
is where the mochin of Rachel is. This also includes Yaakov.
Yaakov and Rachel stand opposite one another. Rachel stands behind
Anpin, and reaches up until two-thirds of the height, until Tiferes.
This is where the Keter of Rachel is: at two-thirds, the Tiferes
of Zeir Anpin. This comes out opposite the left arm. She stands
behind Zeir Anpin, and Yaakov, too, stands opposite Zeir Anpin:
opposite the “face” of Zeir Anpin. He also reaches up until two-thirds
to Tiferes. Yakov’s Keter is opposite the height of two-thirds
of Zeir Anpin. The only difference is that they are “face-to-face.”
He stands opposite the “face,” with his back towards the “face.” He faces
forward, and his (Yakov’s) back faces
Zeir Anpin. From the
tefillin that burst forth from the forehead of Yaakov, we gather up the
lights of those tefillin with the arm tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam.
This is stated in the Sha’ar HaTefillin,
chapter 8: the tefillin that burst forth in the forehead of Rachel—the
light of the tefillin that bursts forth in the forehead of Rachel—those
lights are gathered up with the Rashi tefillin. So too, the lights
that burst forth in the forehead of Yaakov—who stands opposite the “face”
of Zeir Anpin, with his Keter reaching up until the “left
arm” of Zeir Anpin—the light of his Keter, of his head, is
gathered, and goes into the arm tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam. Zeir
Anpin himself wears the tefillin of the head. Rashi is the mochin
of Imma, and Rabbeinu Tam is the mochin of Abba, these
are the tefillin of the head that rest upon the head of Zeir Anpin.
One becomes worthy of all of this by virtue of the
work that is done at night. The work of the night is the work of
prayer and Torah study—the study of Gemara—and praying at the graves of
the Tzaddikim. All of this work draws down the new light of
the tefillin of that day. All that a person learns during the previous
day enables a trace to remain until the following day. From this trace,
one is able to draw down new mochin by virtue of the work that is
done from Chatzot until the morning. Only those who work from
midnight until the morning draw down the light of tefillin for the entire
Jewish people and for the entire world. They draw down the light of tefillin,
and therefore, they put on their tefillin immediately in the morning.
There must be words of truth, words of truth that
are in the heart, as “when a person speaks out the words of truth that
are in his heart, when he speaks privately with his Maker, in spiritual
arousal and repentance.” The main service of G-d during the night
is to repent for all the sins of one’s youth, for all the sins of previous
incarnations. When a person wants to experience a new light, as in “a new
light will light up Zion,” his receiving it is contingent on his having
repented for all the sins of all his lifetimes. A person must know
and believe that all sins are transformed into merits! But, he must
repent anew every day, because perhaps the sins have not yet been transformed
into merits. He still hasn’t yet merited to repent out of love [of G-d]
. And, it is forbidden to forget a single sin, because the sins that a
person stumbles into are like, “My spikenard gave off its fragrance.” [As
Rashi says, the incense offered at the sin of the golden calf gave off
a good “fragrance” after the Jewish people repented.] They bring a person
It is only after a person sins that his free will
begins. Before a person sins, he doesn’t have free choice at all. He only
wants to do the will of Hashem, since he is a creation of G-d, a G–dly
soul. Hashem placed the soul within the body, and then the person
falls to where he falls. That is when his free will and true reward begins,
as long as he doesn’t continue to sin. As is known, “Anyone who says
I will sin and repent afterward is not given the opportunity to repent
afterward” (Yoma 85b). Who can say if he will ever repent,
if he will ever manage to be a ba’al teshuva? If a person,
G-d forbid, frees himself completely from the yoke of the Torah and says,
“maybe one day I will repent,” then he isn’t given the opportunity to repent.
So, from all of the work that a person does from
until the morning, the main thing he has is repentance. He must speak out
to Hashem with a heart of fire, speaking the truth in his heart.
When a person speaks between himself and his Maker the words of truth in
his heart, he is then aroused to repentance and sees how great Hashem is.
“Sing to Him; sing songs to Him; talk of all His wonders” (Tehillim
105:2). He sees wonders; he sees miracles. He sees endless miracles.
Every day is new miracles. The sun shines anew every
single day. They still haven’t taken Yerushalayim away from us! The Rambam
says in the laws of Ta’anis that when we hear that others want to
take away a part of the Land of Israel, we immediately must declare a public
fast. We hear all day long that they are about to take away part
of the Land of Israel. The Rambam says that we must fast because of this.
The Rambam discusses this in Zemanim, in “Hilchos Ta’anios.”
We are still sitting in Yerushalayim: they haven’t yet driven us from here.
We are here right opposite the Kotel, and that is everything. “Sing to
Him; sing songs to Him; talk of all His wonders.”
In “Hilchos Ta’anios” chapter 2, it states
the troubles over which the community fasts and blows the shofar: a siege
by the enemies of the Jewish people, a siege of a city of the Jewish people,
gentiles who come to make war with the Jews and to take taxes. The
gentiles only want to come and exact taxes from us; they only want to rule
over us to take taxes. If they only want to take taxes from the community,
then we must fast and cry out to Hashem. If the Arabs will rule over
us, they could even kill us. They say they want to take taxes, but it could
mean that they will take lives.
The Rambam continues: “or to take away land.“
Even just a strip of land, even over a strip of land, it says in chapter
3 subsection 2, that the community must fast over this. They must fast
over it. So, every day during which we can still remain in Yerushalayim,
opposite the Kotel, it is a miracle of miracles. It is not the natural
order of things. The natural order is that all the nations of the world
oppose us, that they want to destroy the Jewish people. All the nations
of the world! So, we have to feel that it is a miracle that we are
here in Yerushalayim, that it is even possible to go to the Kotel: the
place of the Temple, and the miniature Temple. The “foundation stone.”
For here, the Tamid sacrifice of the dawn atones for the sins committed
during the previous night, and the Tamid sacrifice of the evening
atones for the sins of that day.
So when a person sees the wonders of the Creator,
he begins to receive a sense of shame from Hashem. The main thing is shame.
The entire giving of the Torah was for the sake of shame. “That His fear
may be before your faces, that you sin not” (Shemos 20:17).
All of the giving of the Torah was for the sake of shame. It says
in the Gemara, Nedarim 20, that all of the giving of the Torah was
only for the sake of shame: to receive the attribute of shame. “That His
fear may be before your faces, that you sin not.” This is shame:
all of the giving of the Torah, the Gemara explains. Moshe Rabbeinu
explained that all the thunder and lightning was all so that “his fear
may be before your faces, that you sin not” —to bring the Jewish people
to the attribute of shame.
This is what it means when it says that “Moshe’s
face shone”. The shining of his face was shame. “And Moshe would
take the tent” (Shemos 33:7)—this is the light of tefillin, and
Moshe merited to receive all the light of tefillin. “And Moshe would take
the tent“—this is the lights of tefillin. Moshe merited all of the lights
of tefillin. “Therefore now put your ornaments off of you” (Ibid., 33:5)—these
are the lights of tefillin.
Before the sin, the tefillin were just a supernal
shining, the supernal shining of Chanoch. That was before the sin of the
golden calf. After the sin of the golden calf, it was no longer possible
to see the lights of the tefillin. The light of the tefillin was hidden
away. It was hidden away within the tefillin themselves. Before the
sin of the golden calf, one saw actual lights: supernal shining. “And Moshe
would take the tent”—he took all the lights of the tefillin of all the
Jewish people, and that is what made his face shine. Before then, every
single Jew was shining by himself. Afterward, Moshe’s shining was
the sum of all the shine of the Jewish people together. Before then, they
weren’t afraid to look at Moshe’s face, because they all shone, but afterwards,
when Moshe was the only one shining with this light, then they were afraid
to look in Moshe’s face.
Whenever a person feels shame—every time he is shamed—he
restores the light of the tefillin to himself. “If a person has no shame,
it is a sign that his forefathers did not stand at Mount Sinai.” If a person
has no shame, he doesn’t have the attribute of shame. He pushes;
he gets pushed. He acts impudently; he answers back. It is
a sign that his forefathers did not stand at Mount Sinai. Just as
the Gemara says in Kiddushin 71b: Zeiri did not want to marry his
son to Rabbi Yochanan’s daughter. Zeiri came up from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael,
and he did not want to marry his son to the daughter of Rabbi Yochanan,
even though he was the Rabbinic authority in Eretz Yisrael. He was the
di Atra [the Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel], but Zeiri held himself
to be on such a high level, that he did not want to marry his son to Rabbi
Yochanan’s daughter. One day they had to cross a river and Zeiri carried
Rabbi Yochanan on his shoulders. Rabbi Yochanan said: You carry me on your
shoulders, you acknowledge that I’m greater than you. Why won’t you marry
your son to my daughter? Rabbi Yochanan wanted to give his
daughter to Reb Zeiri’s son, but Reb Zeiri didn’t accept her.
The Gemara says, at the time of the destruction
of the Temple, all the families got mixed up. They were mixed up with all
kinds of illegitimacy. So how could a person know which family is kosher,
and which isn’t? They said “see who is silent.” When you see
people who don’t push, who are silent, who don’t answer back when they
are insulted, this is: “go and see who is silent.” Go and see the
person who doesn’t answer back. No matter what anybody does to him,
he doesn’t answer back. If he never answers back, then this is the sign
that he has a pure lineage. Even families of the best lineage had
intermingled with illegitimate families. After the destruction, there was
no way to check, especially in the Diaspora. For a period of a thousand
years, there was no way to check. Nowadays, people check, but there once
was a time when it was impossible to investigate. People would come from
other lands; there were exiles, massacres, and men and women were left
without their spouses, Women without husbands, widows. So, according
to what sign can one know which family is kosher and which isn’t? The Gemara
says, see who is silent. “Check the way the children of the east have investigated”—that
was how they would investigate in Eretz Yisrael—by seeing who was silent.
If one person insulted another, and the one who was insulted remained silent,
then they would know that the silent one came from a pure lineage, and
that the one who did the insulting was not.
“When you see two Jews fighting…” There are always
all kinds of attackers and enemies, so look to see who really is doing
the attacking—who speaks, and who is silent—to know who comes from a pure
lineage. So, in Eretz Yisrael they would check by seeing, when two people
argued, who was silent. That was the one who came from a pure lineage,
because he had no “muddied up blood” (damim achurim). When a person
doesn’t have muddied up blood, then he never insults anyone. He doesn’t
attack; he doesn’t answer back. He won’t say a word about anyone else.
He is the one who comes from a pure lineage.
Rav said: In Bavel, they checked by seeing who is
silent. “In Bavel, silence is proof of lineage.” Rav said to check,
meaning to check the person’s silence, not their family history. There
is no such thing as “family history.” You could have a person from
a well known family, and it could be that he is the one who curses out
other people the most. We just go according to the person’s silence. He
said to check, but to check by seeing who is the silent one.
Rav went to Bavel and checked, did he check into
family history? No, he checked into their silence: whether they were silent
or not. So, when you see people fighting with one another, and hating
one another—one hates and the other doesn’t. One side hates. The one that
attacks doesn’t want to marry his daughter to the one he is attacking,
but it is meant to save the one being attacked from marrying into the family
of his attacker. Hashem puts the desire to attack into someone’s heart,
so that the one being attacked will not be able to have the attacker’s
son or daughter marry into his family. In this way, Hashem saves the one
being attacked from marrying into the family of the one who attacks. Hashem
puts into the hearts of all kinds of people this thought of attacking someone
else, to save the ones being attacked (who really come from pure stock)
from mixing in with their attackers. So if you see a person who is acting
brazenly, who is attacking someone else, it is a sign that his forefathers
did not stand at Mount Sinai.
Adam HaRishon, as soon as he made his error—as soon
as he sinned—lost the light of tefillin. Tefillin is shame, humility. That
is the light of tefillin. And, that is Gan Eden. When Hashem banished Adam
HaRishon from Gan Eden, He banished him from the light of tefillin. Gan
Eden is the light of tefillin. When he repented, Hashem made him garments
of “ohr” (light/leather). He restored the light of tefillin to him.
“Ohr” can be spelled with an ayin or with an alef.
[In our Sefer Torah, the word used in garments of “ohr” is spelt
with an ayin, meaning leather. In the Sefer Torah written by Rabbi
Meir, it was spelt with an alef, meaning garments of light. See
Rabbah, Devarim 20:12.]
This is why the ox that Adam HaRishon brought up
as a sacrifice had a single horn in the middle of its forehead. Adam HaRishon
repented, and that ox was his “keren,” his repentance: his face
shone. The power of his repentance made his face shine. The power
of his regret made his face shine. Cain was the opposite. “Why has
your face fallen?” (Bereishis 4:6). It is because he lost
the light of tefillin. He lost his shame. Cain brought a sacrifice of the
refuse, “the end of all flesh” (Bereishis 6:13). All of Cain’s
divine service was to find the flaw in others. There were Adam and Chava,
Cain and Hevel, and three sisters—there were seven souls. So Cain looked
for the flaw in everyone else. Cain’s service of G–d was to find the flaw.
There are people whose service of G-d is to find
the flaw in the other person. This is their service of G-d. They can’t
learn; they can’t pray. At least, they can look for the flaws in other
people, that they should have some way of serving G-d. This was Cain’s
divine service. To seek out the flaw in everyone: in his father, in his
mother, in his brother and his three sisters. But when he repented all
of this, Hashem made a ray of light (horn) shine from his forehead. There
was a ray of light/horn that extended from Cain’s forehead when Hashem
accepted his repentance. Beforehand, he had tried to “fool” G-d, but apparently
afterward he did repent sincerely. Before, when he had tried to lie to
G-d, he was like a completely irreligious person [literally, “a head that
doesn’t don tefillin.”] There were two stages with Cain. First he
repented only superficially, only outwardly. This was “kidmat Eden,”
[which is the initial letters of] “karpakta di’lo manach tefillin”
[a head that doesn’t don tefillin]. Afterwards, he seems to have
repented truly. The Ari brings that Cain did indeed repent sincerely
afterward and that he lived until the time of the flood. The Ari
argues on the Midrash, that Cain lived one hundred and thirty years, until
Lemech killed him. Instead the Arizal says that Cain really lived until
There is a way to interpret this differently—that
he lived spiritually until the flood, that his soul hovered in space until
the flood. And then his soul was destroyed/effaced completely. When
the verse says, “And it destroyed/effaced all that existed”—that was Cain.
[“Hayekum,” “all that existed,” is equal to the gematria of
“Cain” plus one for the kollel, one extra for the word itself.]
There are those who say that this Midrash contradicts the first one, that
Cain was killed after one hundred and thirty years. And there are those
[Midrash Tanchuma, Bereishis 11] who say: No. Lemech really did
kill him after one hundred and thirty years. Then his wives Adah and Tzilah
separated from him and went to Adam HaRishon [to ask if they must agree
to return to their husband Lemech]. [He told them to return to Lemech]
and they rebuked Adam. They said: “Lame one, heal your own limp first.”
You say that we should return to Lemech, [but you yourself separated from
Chava after your sin.]
So this entire Midrash—and Rashi brings this Midrash
[Bereishis 4:23]—all of this happened after those one hundred and
thirty years. Lemech had clapped his hands and killed Tuval Cain,
his son, [having already killed] Cain [with his bow and arrow]. “I have
slain a man for wounding me, and a young man for my hurt” (Bereishis
4:23). He killed both a man and a boy, but there is a Midrash that
says that Cain actually lived until the flood. There are those who
like to say, according to the mystical tradition, that Cain’s soul hovered
between heaven and earth until the flood came and destroyed everything
that existed. It destroyed Cain. The flood destroyed even Cain’s soul.
It was such a flood, it even wiped out souls! This is what
is written: “And it was when they were in the field” (Bereishis
4:8). They fought about the field. Each one wanted to build the Temple.
Hevel wanted to build the Temple, but Cain would not let him: he wanted
to build the Temple. “And it was when they were in the field.” Hevel
wanted to build the Temple, to bring sacrifices, to perform all the divine
service. Then Cain said, “This is my portion. If you want to build
the Temple, I will kill you.” That is the field. Yitzchak came and
called the Temple a field: “And Yitzchak went out to pray in the field”
The idol worshippers’ defilement never left them,
but Yisrael, who received the Torah, their defilement left them. The idol
worshippers, because they didn’t stand at Sinai, their defilement never
left them. That is why, they can have a divine spark, but their defilement
still did not leave them: they always aspire to bad things. They yearn
for bad things. But, a Jew immediately repents. A Jew feels regret right
away. Because he received the Torah, he feels regret right away.
If a person doesn’t feel regret over the sins that he has done, then it
is clear that the feet of his ancestors never stood at Mount Sinai. The
idol worshippers don’t have feet. The wicked don’t have feet. It is just
an illusion, just a vanishing mist. They are not even on the level of lice,
or flies, or frogs.
The Midrash Tanchuma says: When Rabbi Shimon
saw such a great number of goyim, one hundred thousand goyim soldiers,
Rabbi Chiyah said to him: Come to the shuk. See how many flies are
in the shuk. He said, all those hundred thousand legions of Rome
are like those flies. Rabbi Shimon told Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, his father,
what Rabbi Chiyah had said. Rabbi Yehudah said: What? Rabbi Chiyah gave
them that much significance? They count that much? They are not frogs,
or lice, but a vanishing mist, nothing but an illusion. An optical illusion.
This is what the Shevet Mussar brings here
on the Yerushalmi: that Hashem created the whole world, all the soldiers,
and all the gentiles. He created all of them to serve the Jewish people.
The entire world was created to serve the Jewish people: gentiles, lions,
and serpents. Even serpents. It is a Gemara in Sanhedrin 12b. When Adam
sinned, “What a pity about the great servant that was lost.” Hashem created
the serpents to serve human beings, not to bite them. Rabbi Chanina
ben Dosa put his foot on the entrance to a serpent’s lair, and the serpent
bit him. He said then, it isn’t the snake that kills, but the sin that
kills. Hashem created the lions, the bears, and the serpents, all to serve
human beings. When a person doesn’t sin, they all serve him. When
they put the Ohr HaChayim in a lion’s den the lion licked him.
So the Gemara says, “What a pity about the great
serpent, the great servant that was lost to the world.” For, if Adam
HaRishon had not sinned and listened to the voice of the serpent, then
each person would have had two serpents to serve him. He would have been
able to send one to the north and the other to the south to bring him precious
stones and pearls. Hashem created the serpents to travel to the north and
the south, to discover diamond mines, and to bring gems: enough so that
person could even have built houses out of gems.
This is how it will be in the ultimate future. ”And
I will make your cornerstones of kadkod” (Yeshaya 54:12).
In the future, Hashem will build Yerushalayim out of kadkod stones
“and your gates of beryl.” Hashem will bring gems that are twenty
by ten amah to the gates of Yerushalayim.
A certain student mocked Rabbi Yochanan when he
said this: “One cannot even find gems the size of an egg, and you say He
will build with gems that are twenty amah by ten amah?! That
is about ten by five meters. After some time, that same student traveled
on the sea. His ship sank and he was drowning in the sea. He saw
how the angels were sawing away at giant gems, thirty by thirty (amah)
cutting them down to twenty by ten amah. Afterward, an angel rescued
him from the sea. He returned to Rabbi Yochanan and said: “You judged
beautifully; you spoke beautifully; you interpreted beautifully. That is
what I saw.” “That is what you saw? But you, you weren’t able to
believe me!” Rabbi Yochanan gazed at him and reduced him to a heap
This is a Gemara in Bava Basra 75a.
“Rabbi Yochanan taught: ‘I will make your cornerstones of kadkod,
and your gates of beryl.’ In the future, Hashem will stand up gemstones
at the height of twenty amah by ten amah in the gates of
Yerushalayim. They will be precious stones and pearls. A certain student
mocked Rabbi Yochanan. If a gem the size of the egg of a tziltzala
(the smallest bird) is rare, then there cannot be such enormous stones.
That student went traveling by sea. He almost drowned. He saw the angels
on high sawing away at stones that were thirty by thirty amah and
cutting them to a size of twenty by ten amah. [About ten meters
by five meters.] He asked: For whom are you doing this? They said, for
the Holy One, so that He can stand them up in the gates of Yerushalayim.
This student came to Rabbi Yochanan and said to him: It is fitting that
you teach/interpret. That is just what I saw. [Rabbi Yochanan said:] If
you didn’t see it, you wouldn’t have believed it. You are a mocker of the
words of the Sages. Rabbi Yochanan gazed at this student and reduced him
to a heap of bones.
The Shevet Mussar (Rabbi Eliyahu HaKohen),
the author of the Midrash Talpiot, comments on this in his commentary on
the Yerushalmi. It says here in the Yerushalmi, chapter 3: “No man will
covet your land” (Shemos 34:24). A man once left a ton of
grain. He left it in the middle of the field and went up for the festival.
He went up during Sukkos for eight days. With a few extra days for
going, and a few extra days for the return trip, he wouldn’t be in the
house for nearly two weeks. And, he left these several tons of grain in
the field without any guards and without a fence. Hashem will take care
of it. You go up for the festival, to Yerushalayim, to the Kotel, what
is there to worry about? Hashem guards: “Behold He does not slumber or
sleep, the Guardian of Israel” (Tehillim 121:4). The gentiles
plotted to bring some trucks, some carts, to steal the ton of grain. Lions
came and surrounded the grain. They surrounded those tons of grain. The
Mussar says: What do we see here? That all of creation was made to
serve the Jewish people, for every Jew and Jewess. The lions, the
leopards, the serpents—all of them were created to serve the one who goes
in the Torah’s way, in holiness, who guards his eyes. Nothing bad will
happen to him. Lions will come and guard over him.
Like we see with Noach, that at the time that he
entered into the ark “in the selfsame day” (Bereishis 7:13).
The nations of the world said: If he tries to go in, we will beat him up,
break his bones. We won’t allow him to go into the ark and leave us here
to drown in the flood! What did Hashem do? He brought lions, and
they surrounded the ark. Now the Shevet Mussar asks an interesting
question that we have forgotten to ask, a very simple question. We see,
“And only, “ach,” Noach remained” (Bereishis 7:23).
The [Midrash says] “ach” [is from the word] “goneach”—hurting
and groaning. He was groaning over his wounded side. At the time he left
the ark, a lion wounded him. This is the question of the Shevet Mussar:
why is it that at the time that he went in, all the lions came and protected
him—many lions came to protect him—but, at the time that he went out of
the ark, after he had fed the lion, when he goes out of the ark, then the
lion attacks him and breaks his leg?
Here we see the matter of prideful thoughts.
At the time that he lived with everyone—the whole generation of the flood,
who were lowly people—out of his great humility, he didn’t even rebuke
them. What? Am I fit to rebuke them? He saw himself as being even worse
than they were. “I am a child of Lemech; my father was a Tzaddik.
They are like children who were taken captive and raised by idolaters.
Do they know any better?” He acted with only the greatest humility, humility
before everyone else. So then the lions came and protected him. If a person
feels humble, then the entire world serves him: lions, bears, leopards,
and serpents. However, after everyone else was destroyed and he was
left alone, so he thought maybe he was the Tzaddik. Perhaps, Hashem
really has chosen him. We know that, really, had he lived during
the time of Avraham, he wouldn’t have been considered anything. He wasn’t
a Tzaddik at all. Compared to Avraham, he would not have been called
a Tzaddik at all. So at that moment, he had an arrogant thought,
and the lion from the heavenly chariot was wounded. The Zer Zahav
says that this lion [that wounded him] represented the lion from the heavenly
chariot. The lion from the heavenly chariot is chassadim, and chassadim
is humility; “aryeh” is three times chessed = 216.
The lion in the heavenly chariot is chessed. When it materializes
downward, it becomes Gevurah. It becomes a beast of prey.
A person can be at root an angel, but when he materializes
downward into a body, he becomes a beast of prey. So, because he had an
arrogant thought, he damaged the upper chassadim. He caused the
flow of chassadim to be withheld. So then a lion wounded him, to
hint to him that he was in a state of spiritual fall. He was meant to understand
the hint, that he had fallen spiritually in order to bring him to repent.
For, in truth, the Zohar says in Parshas Shelach: “And I am like
a flourishing olive in the house of G-d” (Tehillim 52:10). This
is the mystery of “and there was an olive leaf caught in her mouth” (Bereishis
8:11), that Hashem wanted to give the soul of ben David to Noach. “And
I am like a flourishing olive”—this is the mystery of the “olive leaf”.
The dove had been in Gan Eden, and she brought Noach
the soul of Melech HaMoshiach. She brought him the soul of ben David—“I
am like a flourishing olive.” Noach suffered so much taking care
of the animals. He never slept: he was taking care of the animals twenty–four
hours a day. He went through all seven levels of hell. He also was purified,
and his sin of not rebuking the generation of the flood was atoned for.
So, now he is worthy of receiving the soul of ben David. And, this
is the mystery of the “olive”. “And I am like a flourishing olive
in the house of G–d”.
Rav Yechezkiel Levenstein says: What was his
sin? That he planted a vineyard! A grapevine! But it was a
transplant from Gan Eden? There was a vineyard in Gan Eden too! The dove
was from Gan Eden, the olive sprig was from Gan Eden, and also the vine
tendril that he found was from Gan Eden. But every thing that gives physical
pleasure, even if it is from Gan Eden, one must put off, and his sin was
that he occupied himself with planting the vine first. His sin was that
he began by being occupied with the vine. The vine was the first thing.
The first planting. He could have planted pomegranates or plums first,
figs, other trees, or dates, but he began right away with the vine. Rav
Yechezkel Levenstein says that this was his second mistake. His first mistake
was that he damaged the chassadim, the heavenly chassadim—the
lion in the heavenly chariot—by having an arrogant thought. [He thought]
that he was a Tzaddik, that only he had remained. [He should have
thought that] Hashem chose him, because He has to choose someone [i.e.
because he was the only one remaining].
This is similar to when Moshe said, “I am Bilam”.
On the word, “Vayikar,” “And He called,” (Bamidbar 23:4,16).
The Baal HaTurim says he meant, “I am also Bilam.” Hashem speaks
with Bilam, He also speaks with me. He found me in the desert, and Bilam
in the mountains of the east. I’m also just another Bilam. I’m just like
the rest of the wicked.
This was how Noach should have thought of himself.
“I’m wicked like everybody else. If Hashem chose that I should remain,
so perhaps it means that [he chose me, even though] I’m [i.e. I could have
been] the most wicked.” Because he had an arrogant thought, the channels
of chessed were damaged. The lion in the heavenly chariot was damaged,
so the lion down below wounded him. And this is the hint that he would
deteriorate even further. This deterioration was that, after he came
home with the transplant from Gan Eden, he got busy with planting first.
It is forbidden to get busy with something physical first. There is prayer;
there is Torah study; there is chatzot. May the merit of this make
us worthy of the building of the Temple and the complete redemption, speedily
and in our days. Amen.
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