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CHAPTER 2. LOVE AND SIMPLICITY
A person could
attempt to serve Hashem out of fear, but it will only take them so far.
When a person adds love of Hashem to their fear of Him it becomes an
entirely new madreiga.
You can do anything in life successfully without loving it but when your
heart’s not in it, the job is missing realness. When Hashem created
man, He did it out of the greatest love. A love, which is beyond man’s scope
of interpretation, of what love is. The only way therefore to come close to Hashem
is to return this love to Him, by serving Him within the realm of our
personal level of understanding.
When a person
truly loves someone, they are willing to do anything to make that person happy.
There is no greater feeling than being close to someone you truly love. The love
a husband and wife have for each other can help them to understand what it means
to then love Hashem. Shir Hashirim
speaks about the great love and devotion that Klal Yisrael,
and Hashem share for one another. It is considered the greatest text and
love poems ever written. You can see from Shir
Hashirim how the love of G-D and his people reaches beyond the scope of
When you hurt
the feelings of someone who loves you, if the love is true it will not break. If
the love is weak and not real enough then there is a chance it can break. The
love Hashem has for us is a so strong that it cannot be broken. Even if
we are not worthy, He is constantly giving to us. This is because the love He
has for us is whole and true.
physical relationships with people, it is common that if they get to close to us
we put up some form of a defense mechanism to chaise them away. Hashem is
right there so close by that we do the same to Him. We push Him away [by
sinning] even though we know He wants to be close to us.
serve a King but the servants that serve Him out of love are the Kings favorite
and most special servants. It is not complicated actions and hanhagos
that He yearns for us to perform for Him, rather it is the simplicity of doing
the mitzvos with love that He seeks. The humble man who puts His heart
into everything He does, even the simplest of things.
The Baal Shem
Tov once invited his students, “Come, and let us go learn a lesson in the love
of Hashem.” They followed him to a nearby open field where a shepherd
tended to his flock. Suddenly, the shepherd lifted his voice towards heaven and
exclaimed, “Dear Hashem, my love for you has no bounds! I will express my love
by jumping back and forth across this small pond.” After jumping back and
forth for some time, he exclaimed heavenward again. “What can I offer you to
prove my deep love for you, oh Hashem? Here... I have a coin in my
pocket, I will give it to you.” The shepherd took the coin and cast it
heavenward; some versions of this story relate that the coin did not descend.
Sometimes we get so caught up in deep ideas and hanhagos,
stringencies, we forget the simple pure love and avodah that Hashem
truly desires from us. “I heard that the Rebbe (Rebbe Nachman) once said,
‘my achievements came mainly through simplicity. I spent much time simply
conversing with G-D and reciting the Psalms.” This is how he achieved what he
did. The Rebbe deeply yearned to serve G-D like the ignorant common people. He
often said, “Ay! Ay! Prustick! Oh! Oh! Simplicity!” The Rebbe
also said, “I have spoken with many great tzaddikim. They all said that
they attained their high level through Prustick- absolute simplicity.
They would do the simplest things, secluding themselves and conversing with G-D.
This is how they attained what they did. Happy are they.”
Love and fear
of Hashem are the vehicles in which raises you up to higher levels of
greatness. The next level can be reached through fearing punishment and to love
Him in order to receive reward. We are mere human beings and for some of us this
is where we are holding in our connection to Hashem. Today
some of us are so far from G-dliness that we have trouble even holding this madrega.
In truth though, we must strive for more truth then this and with much toil we
will equip ourselves with the necessary tools to reach the third and forth
floor’s. These floors are for those who serve Hashem purely out of love and
fear seeking nothing in return.
There is one
thing that our holy rabbis have always had in common, the willingness to do
anything for Hashem Yisborach. Some of our holy masters mortified
themselves through fasting, while others took axes breaking the ice in a pond
and actually immersing.
If they did this once in a while maybe we could comprehend it but friends these
acts where done constantly. Others took it upon themselves to remain silent for
forty days. There were even some who locked themselves up in a room for months.
It’s funny, we have all of these storybooks, which tell of the greatest
devotions of these rabbis, but let me ask you, do we really know? Can we even
begin to comprehend the holiness, love of Hashem and self-control these tzaddikim
Some people think that holiness is a gift you are born with. Those people
are sadly mistaken. Tzaddikim earn every ounce of holiness they attain.
The question is how do they attain self-mastery and how can reach the same plane
in our lives. If you want something you are willing to do anything for it. The
same has to be true of Torah. If you ask any scholar they will tell you
that you have to be willing to go through the wall, so to speak. That is what
these tzaddikim were all about. They wanted to come close to Hashem
and not only that, they knew how to make it happen.
is everything. Do you think that when the Baal Shem Tov stood at the lake ready
to immerse, he didn't have a second thought telling himself that the water was
too cold? Having self-control though, he overcame these thoughts and completed
the action anyway for Hashem. We have to do the same in our lives. Let us
not move over and let our bodies do the driving. They’ll only steer us off the
road and into a ditch. How will we get out then? Our rebbes
will have to pull us up! Better we should let our neshamos, souls, do the
driving. Our neshamos are experienced and are familiar with the roads
ahead that we will need to follow. Where is this road? It is self-mastery by
doing the will of Hashem and thereby fixing all of our midos.
That is what these tzaddikim were all about, putting the neshama
in the drivers seat following the Torah straight ahead.
Your Rebbe in yeshiva
can give you the Torah, yes, but only you can turn yourself into a tzaddik.
You have to ditch the way of the world, even the way, unfortunately, of many of
your Jewish friends, and you have to follow the Torah. The Torah
will not come after you, nor will self-mastery. If you want it you have to take
it, go after it, making Torah first and foremost in your life.
Do not let your eyes, ears, and mouth control you. Take back control over
yourself. Protect what you have. Do not let your ears hear that which is bad for
it. You cannot let your eyes run freely either. Lets not have our pallets touch
that which is wrong for them. Most importantly, let us take back our minds.
We are told
that mortifying oneself is not the best way in our day and age to come close to Hashem.
Various practices of self-mortification did help tzaddikim of the past to
reach their levels, but our bodies are not as strong as theirs were to handle
such practices. In our day and age there is so much impurity to get into. Just
to stay away from an improper movie, too much Television (or any for that
matter), literature which is not Torah based, the internet, a pool hall,
sports games and who knows what else. I could go on, but I probably have already
touched a nerve in you and myself. Chazal say, “Whatever character
traits and things that are most difficult for you to overcome, this is your true
test in life.”
It is said
that the generation of today can reach the level of the great Rabbi Akiva. To do
so though, you must believe in yourself and take control over your life. People
cannot perfect themselves without being in control of their time. Be above your
body and yourself, giving to Hashem and to others. Also know that when
you say a bracha, it truly makes a difference and shakes the heavens. Do
everything with love and with all your heart. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach said, “If
you don't do something with all your of heart, your not really doing it.” That
is what made these tzaddikim who they are. All of their devotions, the ice, fasting, Torah study
and prayer were done with all their hearts. To help a fellow Jew out, enjoy it
and give it your all, that is true life. The harder the test is, the more
difficult the devotion, the greater the reward.
us to strive to come close to Him, yet the vanities of this world seem to hold
us back. So why do we let them? How can we allow the impurities of the world
into our homes and our lives? What is worse, we neglect protecting our own
children like we know we should. The time we recognize that we let the gate down
which protected them, they are already lost. There is always hope though as no
prayer goes unanswered and no effort goes unnoticed. We have to make sure that
instead of pulling them closer, we are not pushing them away. This is a common
mistake. The best approach is to teach love of Hashem and mitzvos. This is done
The holy Baal Shem Tov said, “Attach your thought to Above. Do not eat
or drink excessively, but only to the extent of maintaining your health. Never
look intently at mundane matters, nor pay any attention to them, so that you may
be separated from the physical. Intent viewing of the mundane brings crudity
Our sages, of blessed memory, thus said, “sight leads to remembering
and to desire.” It is written of the Tree of Knowledge that it is
“desirable to the sight and good for eating...”,
the sight of it made it desirable.
Rashi says, “The eyes see and the heart covets, and the body commits
Gazing at physical and mundane desires will arouse a person to sin. Our physical
bodies constantly desire pleasures of this world. This is because Hashem
created us with free will so that He could see if we would be true to His word.
If one views things, which are holy, then the holiness rubs off on them.
Spending ones time with tzaddikim is of tremendous benefit to ones soul.
A person is affected by his surroundings. Therefore a man wears tzitzis,
fringes on certain garments,
in order to have a positive effect by helping him to remember the mitzvos.
This is because it is written, “you will see it and remember all the
commandments of G-D and do them.”
The Baal Shem Tov comments on the saying, “Turn aside from evil and
This means that you should make the evil into good.
In everything you do Hashem can be found. Everything physical around us
in the world has sparks from above. It is our job to elevate these sparks by
thinking about who created them and by using them to perform mitzvos.
Even the worse sinner has a spark of good in him. All this can and should be
turned around into good. Generally, the higher a person’s madreiga the
more they are able to lift up these sparks. Though those who are furthest from Hashem
who return can be His dearests as it says, “In the place where those who
repent stand, even the perfectly righteous cannot stand.”
Mans main task
in this world is to “transform darkness into light”.
The truth is though that even bad is really good as how could Hashem
really create something bad? It has been taught that these sparks fell from the
time of creation of the world. In order to bring the final redemption, all the
sparks must be elevated back to their source. May it be soon in our generation
that together we complete these final elevations.
Rebbe Nachman explains that one should follow the code of Jewish law with
simplicity. He also said, “One does not have to be a genius to serve G-D. All
that he requires is simplicity and sincerity.” A person’s main goal
should be to do good things and serve G-D without sophistication. Every good and
holy thing can be done with absolute simplicity. The Rebbe also said, “One can
study much Torah, do much good, and spend much time in prayer, all
without sophistication at all.”
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev’s way in holiness was actually like a
seraph, fiery angel. It was said of him that when some food was brought
before him to eat, and he had to make a blessing of enjoyment first, he would
make the blessing with such fervor and with such a great fire of devotion that
he would end up in one corner of the room and the food in the other corner.
Who is it that binds together Heaven and Earth, the tzaddik?
He is above the physical world, yet is not, nor can he ever be as spiritual as
G-D. Through the tzaddik we have a bridge in which we can use to come
close to Hashem but we must be close to the tzaddik to draw from
his spirituality and advice. Having come close to a tzaddik one can then
learn true humility. Simplicity and humility go hand and hand. Moshe called
himself a humble man yet with complete humility.
When the Gerer Rebbe, Rabbi Aryeh Leib, first took leadership of the
Gerer Chassidic branch some Chassidim wanted to see what this new Rebbe
was all about. When they came to the Rebbe he said, “So you’ve come to spy
out the land? You will recall that when they finally met him, Joseph’s
brothers did not recognize him, thinking he was an Egyptian. Now is it not
strange that the righteous Joseph could be mistaken for an Egyptian? The answer
is simple: a real tzaddik like Joseph is able to conceal himself to the
point that he can be mistaken for a gentile...” From that moment on, they all
became his Chassidim.
There are stories of many great sages whom kept themselves a secret so
that people would not find out their high level. We are to learn in order to
teach so these rabbis usually would still find ways of teaching Torah to
school children or adults. Some separated themselves from society as much as
they could to serve Hashem privately. What was this all about and what
did it truly accomplish for them?
The way to come close to Hashem is to become bittul.
When a person thinks of himself or herself as being bittul they become
infused and one with Hashem. We are His creation and compared to Him we
are absolutely nothing. If Hashem desired He could stop sustaining us
with His divine influx and we would stop existing instantly. When we sin, as it
says in Tomer Devorah, Hashem is sustaining us with divine influx that
very moment even while we are sinning. So why does He let us get away with so
much? He is slow to anger and Hashem wants us to give us a chance to
repent. It is horrible how we can humiliate Hashem like this. There is no excuse
for hurting someone close to you. Unfortunately we all struggle with this and
usually hurt those closest to us. Let us try to reflect before everything we do
with our fellow Jews and before we do actions that can lead us to sin. Hashem
has given us so much and all He asks for is a few mitzvos and Torah study. When
you borrow money from the bank they charge you interest, they don’t reward you
afterwards for paying it back. Hashem is giving us our bodies as a loan
to perform His commandments and when you pay back the loan He gives you more
than precious gems. Hashem gives us a little glimpse at His glory and
that is so precious to look at that the righteous say,
“one moment in this world is worth all the world to come.” After life
there is no way to perform any more mitzvos. Hashem rewards everyone in
the next world, but they cannot add to their slate. We are not aloud to
wear the fringes of our tzitzis out in a cemetery because we do not want
to embarrass those who cannot perform any more mitzvos. These beautiful
souls would do anything just to do one simple mitzvah that we are faced
with every day. To go up one more level in the next world where one level is the
difference between black and white. It says that in the next world a person is
embarrassed to look another in the eye who is higher then them as they feel so
bad for not doing more good during their lifetime.
The Rabbis teach that with one mitzvah it is possible for a person
to reach eternity. Without being humble and realizing our lowliness compared to Hashem
we cannot possibly come close to Hashem. Being like nothing means
realizing that everything comes from Hashem.
Although humility brings a person to the world to come, humility itself
does not exist there. In the world to come, no person will be able to honor his
fellow by saying, “Sit beside me.” Each person reposes on his resting place,
and each one will come in peace to the place that has be prepared especially for
him. If a person humbles himself in this world, not withstanding that he has the
opportunity of progression and attain a dominant position in the community, he
will occupy first place in the world to come. An example of this is the
B’ne Beteira, who resigned their leadership in favor of Hillel.
A pious sage, Reb Elimelech, once said that he was without a doubt
assured that he would have a place in the world to come. For when his time would
come to go up to the world above and he would be asked if he had studied Torah
to the best of his ability, he would answer “No”; if he had served Hashem
fully through worship, he would say “No”; if he had done his quota of mitzvos
and good deeds, he would say “No”. Then they would say, “If so, then you
are telling us the truth and in that case you deserve reward in the world to
I was once telling a friend about all the troubles I was experiencing and
all the things I lack, that I feel I truly need to continue. He gave me a deep
look and said, “Who are you to think you deserve anything more then you
already have?” The voice he said it in was so strong that it penetrated my
heart. I told him that he is very right and I thanked him even though it was
difficult to recognize his correctness. This person was somaich bechelco
after loosing one wife and soon after another. I have learned so much to
appreciate things from seeing him live so simply and humbly.
Some of these tzaddikim, who kept their pious actions a secret,
were hidden tzaddikim. This is one of the highest levels of serving G-D.
For many it was how they reached their levels but eventually they were found out
or they knew they had to come more into the open with their pious actions in
order to help the world. Many of the great rebbes knew that not everything they
did and knew about was something they should necessarily share with the world.
Maybe the world was not ready to learn certain high concepts, just yet. There
are many stories about tzaddikim, and they are very good examples of how
we should behave. Some are to just inspire us as they are above our physical
bodies abilities. Rebbe Nachman says that hearing stories of tzaddikim
has the ability to wake a person up even if they are stuck in the deepest pits
of depression and idle worship. The holy Baal Shem Tov says that reading stories
about tzaddikim are equivalent to learning Miesa Merkava, which is
from the deepest kabalistic concepts. We do not tell enough stories considering
how hearing them really wakes us all up.
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach used to go around with his guitar and tell stories
in his toned singing voice. People from all over the world would gather to his
concerts to hear him tell stories and sing. He woke up many from their sleep.
People so far from Judaism turned over a new leaf, all because of his stories of
tzaddikim, and even simple folk who served G-D with all their heart. A
storyteller is called a Magid. Many of the old Jewish towns had Magidim
who were known for relating stories. One known contemporary Magid is
Rabbi Pesach Krohn who has many published books and tapes. Every one of us can
be a Magid. To our children, friends and spouses we must relate stories
to give us all a rebirth in our Judaism. There is a book out called Rebbi
Nachman’s Stories, which are very deep stories written from Devine
inspiration. His stories are known to be the deepest and most purifying stories
to read. The Rebbe said that from hearing them, even a woman who has been having
trouble conceiving might be able to conceive. I’m honored now to have a few
moments to tell you some of my favorite stories.
The Chazon Ish was willing to sacrifice everything in order to fulfill
the mitzvos, as commanded from Hashem. During the First World War
he was in a town where no esrog could be found and it was two days before
Succot. It was said that the town of Minsk had some esrogim but it
was said to be very dangerous to travel there. This did not stop this pious tzaddik
from journeying on his own in search for an esrog so he could properly fill the
requirements for this important Jewish holiday. He was successful in finding an esrog,
and he remained in Minsk for the Yom Tov. When he arrived home someone
asked him why he went to such lengths when the halacha says that you are
free from your obligation many of the mitzvos when performing them might
put you in danger. He responded, “If you found yourself a few days before
Pesach, Passover, without matzos, would you resign yourself to not eating
on Yom Tov?”
To the Chazon Ish, mitzvos were food for ones neshama. He
personally could not live without them, and this mitzva, and every mitzva,
meant a lot to him, as they should the same to all of us.
Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin was traveling through all the places where the
Baal Shem Tov had been during his youth. He came to the village that stood
between Kitov and Kossov and asked the Jews who lived there if they remembered
anything about the holy rabbi and how he conducted his avodas Hashem,
actions towards G-D. They referred him to an old man who was a gentile that was
formally the mayor of the village. The rabbi found him lying in bed, infirm in
his old age. He began to ask him what he knew of the holy Baal Shem Tov. The he
told him that the rabbi regardless of the weather would immerse himself in the
nearby stream. Once when I saw him the old man said, “I noticed that his feet
were stuck to the ice and as he tried to remove them the blood flowed from them.
From that day onwards, when he would go to immerse and was under the water, I
would go and pile straw and hay on the place where he emerged. I kept doing this
for him for a long time until one day the rabbi thanked me and asked me with
what I wished to be blessed with. The rabbi offered me long life, wealth or
honor. I did not want to give up any of these blessings, so he blessed me with
all of them. It became known among our town that the waters of the stream had
miraculous healing powers and people flocked to bathe in them.” The gentile
became rich by prospering from the use of the lake and he was honored by the
townspeople and became their mayor. I asked the Baal Shem Tov one last thing,
“How long will I live?
Rav Yisrael Baal Shem Tov kindly responded, “You will live until a
Sage comes to you bearing the same name as I and having a similar appearance,
and you will tell him about me.”
The holy Rabbi bid him farewell and thanked him for his story. Before
leaving the village, he was informed that the old man had past on.
Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai received [the oral tradition] from Hillel and
Shammai. He used to say: If you have studied much Torah, do not claim special
credit for yourself; for this very purpose were you created.
Rav Yisrael AbuChatzeirah, known as Baba Sali, was known for his
humility. He would often say, “Woe to those who believe in someone who is
nothing.” He would often become
angry after everyone left and ask, “ Why do they come here?
What do they see...?”
Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz would open up a Gemara, turn through the
pages and read during a shir. Those who were standing behind him sometimes
noticed that the sefer was not even turned to the correct page. Reb Chaim
knew the text completely by heart, but in his humility, he made it look as if he
An upstairs neighbor of the Gerer Rebbe, Rabbi
Simcha Bunim Alter, came home to find a note on his door stating that his
daughter could be found with the family Alter. He quickly rushed downstairs to
find out if his little girl was okay. When he came in to the Alter house he saw
the rebbe sitting in the kitchen offering the little girl sweets to comfort her
after finding her crying in the hallway! From this we see that a tzaddik
would even make time from his busy schedule to care for a little girl who was
crying. One can never be too holy to do kindness, after all that is what being
holy and Torah is all about!
When the mighty mountains heard that Hashem planned to give the Torah
from a mountaintop they began arguing amongst themselves. Each of the mountains
felt that it was the most suited for this auspicious event. Mount Tavor, Mount
Carmel and other mountains made claim that the Torah be best given upon
it. “You are all mountains but none of you are fit,” said Hashem to
them. You are all so lofty that you have become full of pride.” Mount Sinai,
the lowest of the mountains, stood by silently without saying a word during all
this debating. Seeing this, Hashem declared, “That is the mountain upon
which I shall give the Torah, for only it is fitting”. It is humble and
also the place where Yitzchak was bound as a sacrifice to Hashem when it
was part of Mount Moriah. Therefore it deserves the honor more then all the rest
and that is where we received the Torah!
We received the Torah for these same reasons from our sages. Our sages
where humble and therefore people listened and respected their teachings. We
must emulate their ways. It is the only correct path! One cannot get close to Hashem
when their heart is full of pride. The mountain was chosen only for its humility
and we will be chosen to enter the highest levels only for our humility.
Serving Hashem through fear is the level of a servant, and serving
Him from love is the level of a son.
 Song of Songs
 The Jewish People
 From My Fathers Shabbos Table
 Sichos Haran 154
Immersing in a stream, lake or Mikvah can purify a person from the damage
done through sins and can help a person reach very high levels of holiness.
Another term for Rabbi, teacher and guider
 Genesis 2:9
 Tzav'at Harivash 5-6
 Numbers 15:39
 See Numbers 15:38
 Ibid 15:39
 Psalms 34:15
 Keter Shem Tov 69
 Berakoth 34b
 Zohar 1:4a
 Shevachay Haran 13
 Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom 19
 Seder ha-Dorot ha-Chadash, p. 36
 Zohar III, 257a
 Rebbes of Ger, Artscroll Books
 Nullifying ones ego
 Bava Metzia 85b
 Sefer Chassidim
 Story from the Chazon Ish, Arscroll Series
 Pirkei Avos 2.9
 Rabbi Chaim’s Discourses
 Torah Luminaries, Artscroll
 Shabbos 89
 Kedushat Levi, Yitro. p. 36