Parshas Shemos

“He guided the sheep into the wilderness” (Shemos 3:1)

   What does the term “into the wilderness” mean? What does it mean “to go into the wilderness”? Did Moses have to go to look for a good place to pasture? An even better pasture? Rebbe Avraham ben HaRambam says that Moshe went to look at one desert after another, because he wasn’t satisfied with just any desert. He wanted a desert that was completely isolated from all the other deserts, a desert in which no one had passed through—not a single person had been there. No foot had ever stepped there. Only in such a place could he come to his completion, to truly attach himself to Hashem, to know that “there is nothing else but Him,” to know that he had no connection with this world—no connection with anything, in order to be able to achieve the ultimate self-nullification.

   A person needs to be unaffected by the material world, to believe that there is no material world—there is no world at all. This world is a dream, a figment of the imagination, says the holy Zohar (Parshas Shelach). In the future, nothing with remain of this world—nothing—not houses, not property, not problems, not difficulties—nothing will remain from this world. As long as a person has the slightest connection to this world, he cannot achieve his tikkun—only if he is tormented and purified from his base desires, from all the illusions of this world, until he forgets everything, so that he should no longer have any memory of this world! A person cannot enter the World to Come if he has the slightest connection to his body or to this world, because in the World to Come there are no houses, no food, nothing—everything is completely different. The body turns into a soul, and not a single aspect of this world remains.

   Reb Shimon Min HaYa'ar, a Breslover chassid who served Hashem day and night with tremendous strength and enthusiasm, died. He came in a dream to Reb Avraham Berneo, the grandson of Rabbeinu, and told him everything he went through after he died. “Rebbe Nosson came to me and took me to Rabbeinu HaKadosh, and the Rebbe said to me, ‘Who said you are a Breslover chassid? Have you been to Uman? Did you go up to the Tzion? Did you have mesirus nefesh? It’s all well and good, but being a Breslover chassid is not so simple. It doesn’t come easily. I have a notebook here. Let’s see if you are on the list.’ The Rebbe took the list and said, ‘It’s OK. You’re on my list. You’re a Breslover Chassid, but you still have the smell of this world!’” As long as a person has any connection with this world, any attachment to this world, any smell of materialism or of this-worldly desires, he cannot arrive at his place in Heaven. “Two angels came can took me to the Dinur River —a river of fire and they toiveled me…What can I say of the pain and suffering that was involved in this toiveling—it is completely beyond description. There is simply no concept of this kind of suffering in this world—however so too is the greatness of the pleasure after the tevilah. After I toiveled, Rav Nosson returned with me to Rabbeinu z”l. He said, ‘I still feel “this world” on you. Go and toivel again a second time.’ It is forbidden that any belief in this world remain, any connection with the world, any attachment to the world. Until all the residue of this world is gone, all the filth of this world, one cannot enter the World to Come. And Reb Nosson took me to toivel again, and when I returned to Rabbeinu, he said, ‘now you have been purified.’”

   We want eternal life. Our body is just a container, just a container for the soul. Why did Hashem make the body? It was only so that the soul wouldn’t go up before it’s time. The soul has nothing to do in this world. It only wants to return to its source in heaven. It has no connection with this world—eating again, drinking again—enough already! A person has to eat so that his soul won’t run away from him. The moment that a person doesn’t eat, the soul leaves and returns to its source. The soul doesn’t want to be here! 120 years is the maximum. After that it has no more strength and already wants to leave this place. Up until 120 years it can survive, but it is only sustained by the food. So a person needs to always be concerned with the needs of the body. But in truth, the body is just a vessel to contain the soul, the same as one keeps a diamond in a receptacle. There are people who sit the whole day long and worry about the container. You polish the container all day long, worry about it. There is a diamond inside. The main thing is the diamond? The main thing is the soul! Fix up the diamond! Polish the diamond! You are something G-dly, so why are you shining the container? So that it should be shiny? You polish it so much—soon it won’t even be shiny from all the polishing, because nothing will remain from the body, from the container. The container is just a protection—there is a diamond inside! Look for the diamond. Each person has two paths to choose from, as it is written, “See, I have placed before you life and good, and death and bad.” “Choose life.” Do you need to tell a person not to choose death? It is written, “life…and good…death…and bad.” Which idiot would choose death? What kind of person chooses death? Rather, this is a sign that everything in this world is mixed up and interchanged. Death looks like life. Materialism and the base desires seem to a person like the good life. And life—the Torah and holiness—looks like death. So the Torah says to be careful! It could be that what you think is life is really death: be warned! You can die! “And chose life…” chose Torah, holiness and purity. 

   Every single person is fighting a life long war. There were so many people who entered the life of holiness and serving Hashem. But many of them couldn’t stand up to the tests—they couldn’t hold on. The moment the evil thoughts start, a person’s desires are able to completely break him. He says to himself, “Maybe this war isn’t for me.” Do you have a different path? “Choose life!” There is good and there is bad. There is no middle way. There is no saying, “This is not for me.” If you don’t choose life than you are choosing death! You can go downhill and leave the Torah and stumble into forbidden sights, so you must choose life, because if a person wants to come close to Hashem, if he really wants to, than nothing can stand in the way of his will. Nothing can stand in the way of his G-dly will. Whatever a person really wants, he will get. In Likutei Halachos, Rav Nosson relates that there are people who want to get rich dealing in diamonds, so they travel great distances. They travel far far away, through jungles, past Indians, though deserts, some even get killed on the way. They go with mesirus nefesh for profit: a kilo of gold, a kilo of diamonds. So, for HaKadosh Baruch Hu, for kedusha, should a person not also have mesirus nefesh? He should learn from the Sitra Achra. People make tremendous efforts for the Sitra Achra. People in universities sit and learn at night, learn all night long, they don’t sleep, and all for matters of no real significance whatsoever, for a transient world. So we, for kedusha, shouldn’t we learn Torah? Shouldn’t we put in the effort?  



   Ribono Shel Olam, please help me to be satisfied with the eternal good that You do for me, and to truly become part of Your Oneness. And to know that there is nothing but You, and there is nothing that compares to You, and only Your wondrous and awesome name should be worthy before my eyes. “I have placed Hashem before me at all times.” I should not be afraid of any created being, and I shouldn’t do anything to try to find favor in anyone’s eyes. Rather, all my movements and my thoughts, and my words and my meditations should always be for You alone. And I shouldn’t waste my years with nonsense and emptiness, with thoughts of trivialities and forbidden desires. And I shouldn’t favor in my heart, anything pertaining to this temporary and passing world, which is full of false imaginations and deceit, things that never existed and were never created at all, which are really nothing but optical illusions that exist because I looked at forbidden sights.


Biur Pnei Melech Chaim

   The moment that a person enjoys something apart from HaKadosh Baruch Hu, he is already distanced from HaKadosh Baruch Hu. A person cannot lead a double life. You can’t say that you have HaKadosh Baruch Hu and that you also have other interests. When you enjoy going out into the world, when you enjoy not being separate from all the nations, when you enjoy being like everyone else, then you distance yourself from Hashem. You cannot be a Jew in your home and someone else when you go out, as they tried to proclaim during the time of the Enlightenment.

   HaKadosh Baruch Hu wants us to be faithful. This is the truth. Truth and faithfulness are one concept.

   What does one mean when he says Amen? It is a guarantee that this is the truth. Just as when someone says something and you want to agree that what he said was absolutely true, you say, “Amen.” Amen is the symbol of faithfulness. It is extremely difficult for people to understand and grasp the truth. People speak in the name of truth, and each person is certain that he has grasped the ultimate truth, that only they are raising the flag of truth. We have only one thing to do in order to connect ourselves to the truth: to say “Amen” to all that the tzaddikim, chachamim, the Torah, and Chazal tell us. We should say Amen to everything. This Amen is the symbol of faithfulness. Faithfulness means faithful to one thing, to one G-d, to one Torah. Under no circumstances can a person enjoy other things, because even when they are not forbidden by halacha, even so, they are the opposite of a connection with HaKadosh Baruch Hu. It’s like leading a double life.

   Our connection with HaKadosh Baruch Hu cannot be purely mental but needs to reach the heart. A person needs to connect his mind and his heart, so that they operate as one. Just as we lay tefillin on the arm opposite the heart, and the head tefillin against the brain, so that mind and the heart become one.

   Pharaoh, which has the same letters as oreph (back of the neck), would grab each and every Jew by the neck. He wouldn’t allow the understanding and the comprehension of the person go into his heart. You learned, you wrote, you recorded, you were tested, you understood, you are already a talmid chacham. You will soon be a posek, deciding halacha. You received your rabbinic license. You have a phenomenal mind but what about your heart? Perhaps there is something missing there. When we get our vitality from other things, HaKadosh Baruch Hu feels: “You have given up on me. You have all kinds of enjoyments on the side. Your religious activities are all organized. You have Jewish folklore, a Jewish daily schedule, a Jewish way of life, etc. but really you are somewhere else. This is the falsity of life. The falsity is that a person declares that he belongs to something, but he is really in another place. He has a completely different source of vitality. And this is the biggest lie that can be.

   How can we return HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s faith in us? Only if HaKadosh Baruch Hu sees that we are not giving up on Him, and that we are ready to die al kiddush Hashem, that we trust in Him, that we know that only He can save us. In what merit should He save us? We did all kinds of bad things, so why do we deserve that He should save us? It’s because He is our Father. We are His children. We believe in Him. We believe that there is nothing here at all, that this world doesn’t even exist. There is only Hashem who exists at all times—He is eternal. And we understand that we are obliged to connect ourselves to this eternal being.

   There is only one means of connection, and that is the tzaddik. Through his humility and his self-nullification, he merits joining heaven to the earth. Every Jew has an internal point of truth—the Jewish spark buried deep within—which is not willing to give up. Even though from the outside everything looks like a lie. The main job of the tzaddik is to remove all the parts of falsity, which are really externalities, and expose the deep internal hidden point, to bring it out and reveal it.

   Every Jew, at that special moment, is willing to die al Kiddush Hashem. Every Jew knows deep inside that there is nothing but HaKadosh Baruch Hu. A person has to fight against all of his external pleasures, and continually give up on one external pleasure after another, in order to be able to focus in on this deep inner point. We have no intelligence. We have no strength. We have no abilities. We have nothing. We have only You.


Parparos L’Torah 1

“And they cried out because of their enslavement and their plea went up to G-d” (2:23)

   Sometimes, the mochin (mentalities) disappear in the aspect of ibur (pregnancy), and we need to cry out 70 cries, which are the aspect of the cries of the woman giving birth. And through this, mochin are born and revealed, etc. (Likutei Moharan Book 1, Torah 21)

   The main reason for all of the exiles, and particularly the exile of Egypt , came about through a flaw in da’as, and that is why the Egyptians made the decree regarding the boys, that specifically they be thrown into water. “And Israel cried out to Hashem,” this is the aspect of the cries of a woman giving birth, which brings about the birth of the mochin. And then Moshe was revealed, who is da’as, and he came from Midyan and redeemed them. The Egyptians wanted to conceal the mochin, chas v’shalom, so they made their decree particularly in regard to the males who continue the mochin from generation to generation. This is the reason that a person must leave behind him children when he dies, and specifically male offspring, who are the aspect of logical thought (Likutei Moharan Book 1, Torah 35), because the main da’as is continued by the males. This is why the Egyptians took council to kill specifically them, and throw them into water, because the water is the aspect of the concealing of the mochin. The mochin are taken out of water through the crying out, which is the aspect of the seven cries that King David said over the water. Because water is the aspect of da’as, as it is written, “The world will be filled with daas…like water.” And the Egyptians wanted to cover all the possibilities, concealing the mochin by throwing the boys into water so that they should die there, chas v’shalom, and the mochin would then be concealed, chas v’shalom. And Israel did what they had to do, returning to the paths of their forefathers, “And the Children of Israel cried out to Hashem”, because this is the main rectification of the galus, and of everyone’s suffering, which comes from a lack of da’as, because the mochin are concealed. And this is the reason that a person needs to cry out etc. (Likutei Halachos, Giluach, 5:7).


Parparos L’Torah 2

“These are the names of Bnei Yisrael” (1:1)

   Dorshei Reshumot explains that the word “Shemos” is an acronym for three mitzvos: Shabbos, Milah, and Tefillin. These are the three outstanding mitzvos, being that the Torah calls them a “sign.” About Shabbos it is written, “Because it is a sign between Me and you.” On the mitzvah of milah, it is written, “You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin. This shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you” (Bereishis 17:11). And about tefillin it is written, “[These words] shall be a sign on your hand and for tosafos between your eyes” (Shemos 13:16).

   It is worthy of note that since we became a nation until today, we have clung with mesirus nefesh to these mitzvos which emphasize our distinction from the other nations of the world. And Chazal have already said in the Midrash Mechilta (31:9): “Every mitzvah that Israel was ready to give up their lives to keep, was given over into their hands…and can never be annulled (will never taken away from them for ever).”


Story on the Parsha 1

“And it was because the midwives feared Hashem…” (1:21)

   Rav Ze’ev Chechik told a story that he heard directly from an elderly chassid who had the privilege of knowing one of the students of the “Ketzos HaChoshen.” The student related: Once, when I finished learning with my teacher the Rebbe, the “Ketzos HaChoshen,” before traveling home, I went in to receive a parting blessing from the Rebbe. When I went in and told the Rebbe that I had come to take my leave, at first he didn’t say anything, then, he grabbed my hand in his holy hand and began to recite slowly in his sweet voice, “Rejoice, young man, in your childhood; let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the path of your heart and the sight of your eyes” (Koheles 11:9). And here my teacher the Rebbe, the “Ketzos HaChoshen,” paused, and then he immediately continued and started to shout the end of the pasuk in a loud voice, shaking my hand hard and stressing the words, “But be aware...” And with his holy face aflame, he said “…that for all these things G-d will call you to account.” With this the student finished relating his story to the elderly man and said to him: Many years have passed since that day that I parted from my teacher the Rebbe the “Ketzos HaChoshen,” but my fear of doing, chalila, a sin, even the slightest sin, is tremendous, since all the time his cry is echoing in my head, “but be aware that for all these things G-d will call you to account!”


Story on the Parsha 2

“And Moshe hid his face” (3:6)

   There is a story of a wealthy landowner whose fist was tightly closed regarding any matter to do with the giving of charity. Because of this, the poor people of the town wouldn’t even bother to go to his home to ask for help, since he was known as such an incorrigible miser. One time a talmid chacham came to the town to collect donations for a well-known Torah institution. In the talmid’s honor, one of the officials of the community accompanied him, and they went together from house to house, collecting donations for the institution. When they got to the house of the wealthy miser, the official said to the talmid chacham, “There is no reason to go to this house, because a miser lives here from whom we have no hope of receiving a donation.” But the talmid chacham insisted that they shouldn’t miss out on giving the miser, who they could see through one of the windows, the opportunity to donate to such an important cause. The official rang the bell again and again, and after a long time, the door opened, and a member of the family said angrily “Father is not at home.” The talmid chacham and the official immediately left, saddened by the corrupt character of a rich man who could teach his children to so brazenly lie in order to avoid him having to give even the slightest amount of tzedaka, which surely would not have been such a great suffering for him. As they went on their way the talmid chacham said to the official, “Chazal say in Maseches Shabbos (127a) that inviting guests into one's home is greater than receiving the Shechina. Now, let’s explain this as it applies to our situation here: we read that Moshe Rabbeinu hid his face when he saw the Shechina in the burning bush. Whereas this wealthy miser, who refuses to give tzedaka, doesn’t hide only his face when he sees guests coming for donations, rather he hides his whole body!”


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