Monday, September 15, 2014

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Elul and Self Assessment

Some Torah from Rav Shalom Arush, shlita, is being made available to us to share.  We’ll be publishing, with some edits as appropriate for our audience.

on Mystical Paths, Torah by Rav Shalom Arush, shlita

At the end of the year we come to the month of Elul (the Jewish month before Rosh Hashana), when we take time out to do our annual self assessment. This is the time to stop and assess how to bring what we’ve learned this year into practice and internalize it for the coming year.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches us that the [Kabalistic] intentions for Elul are a rectification for damage done in the area of brit (holiness). For Breslev Chassidim this means to look into Torah 6 in Lekeutei Moharan in which Rebbe Nachman describes for us how to practically apply the “intentions of Elul” and serve Hashem with the advice we find there. With this a person can rectify the damage done in brit like Rebbe Nachman explains in Torah 87 in Lekeuitei Moharan II.

In Torah 6 Rebbe Nachman teaches us that we need two types of expertise, that of running and that of returning. To put it another way we need expertise in going up and expertise in going down. The way of serving Hashem in these two times is completely different, but even so, these two types of serving Hashem complement one another and it’s impossible to succeed in repentance with one and not the other. If we look into Torah 6 and the way of repentance that Rebbe Nachman details, we’ll see the two types service to focus on this year.

The service of ratzon (desire) and the service of thanksgiving. Both of these we learn from the mishnah in Pirkei Avot “make your desire like His desire”. To go over these briefly:

Service of desire – a Jew needs to want everything holy, to want to reach all of the heights. We need to hold tight to good desires and not allow them to waver. Only through this can a person really make progress. Heaven is particular on the fact that a person didn’t desire something good, they will show him that if he desired, he could have achieved everything.

Service of thanksgiving – a person that believes that everything that happens to him if from Hashem, may His name be blessed, is obligated to say thank You on everything that goes wrong for him, because everything Hashem does He does for the good. Even when a person falls spiritually, he has to say ‘this is what Hashem desires and if Hashem wants this, then I also want this’ and then say thank You on everything. This service is the key to all of the salvations.

A person that goes with the service of thanksgiving without the service of desire cannot progress because he has no aspirations. He needs, as well, to go with desire and yearning. So too, a person that goes with just the service of desire won’t be able to handle his failures, practically speaking he lives a life of atheism [in that he doesn’t live with the emunah (faith) that there is nothing but Hashem] and is surely cut off from Hashem.

Our job is to be expert with the two type of service. The expertise with the service of thanksgiving is that when you give thanks, don’t think into things and don’t bring in any personal desires. Make your desire like His desire and say thank You without bringing your mind into the picture and without understanding where the good is in what’s happening. The expertise in the labor of desire is to aspire to all of the heights without using one’s mind at all, without thinking I can or can’t. You can always want. You can want everything.

The complete service is to hold tight to these two ways of service and to go with them together. “It’s good to hold tight to this and also from the other don’t release your hands.” With whatever happened to you until this day give thanks and through this you can begin to desire and plead to Hashem for help, that He save you and redeem you.

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