Chasidic Thoughts for the Holidays From Michael Avraham Halevy

Michael Avraham Halevy is a student of the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Uman.

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Rebbe Nachman says: The ultimate goal of all knowledge of God is to realize that one knows nothing. Yet even this is unattainable. A person may come to realize his own ignorance, but only in a certain area on a particular level. There is still the next level, which he has not even touched. He does not know enough about the next level to begin to realize his ignorance. No matter how high he climbs, there is always the next step. A person therefore knows nothing: he cannot even understand his own ignorance. For there will always be a level of ignorance beyond his present level of perception. ~ Sichot Haran #3

The more you draw yourself to God, the more you must realize how far you are from Him. When a person believes that he has succeeded in achieving closeness to God and understanding of Him, it is a sign that he does not know anything at all. If he did, he would understand that he is very far from God and knows absolutely nothing, because God’s greatness is without limits. ~ Likutey Moharan I, 63

Even when rain was pouring down, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk would sit in the suka. He related once, “The reason a person is absolved from sitting in the suka in the rain is because of the law that one who is suffering is not obligated to sit in a suka; the discomfort caused by the rain has the legal status of ‘suffering.’ “The truth is, ” sighed Rabbi Menachem Mendel, “a Jew who ‘suffers’ from sitting in the suka does not deserve to sit in the suka…”

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Chazal in Bava Basra 16a tell us that when Penina taunted Channa (Samuel I:1), a childless mother until she cried, it was L’shem Shomaim, for the Sake of Heaven. We understand that but how did the Chazal know that this was her intention? The Kotsker Rebbe answers: This level of cruelty was only possible L’Shem Shomaim.

You think I’m deaf? I’m not deaf at all. It’s just that for me, the entire world doesn’t amount to anything, so why should I listen to what they want? People cry and scream only because they want or lack something. Each person cries out over what he lacks. Even people’s enjoyment is only because of some prior lack the fulfillment of which makes them happy. But for me the entire world doesn’t amount to anything, so why should I let their deficiencies enter my ears? I live the good life, and I lack nothing. Moreover, I have the agreement of the Land of Wealth that I live the good life. His good life consisted of eating bread and drinking water. The deaf beggar began to tell his story…

Imagine yourself in the middle of the sea, with a storm raging to the very heart of the heavens. You are hanging by a hairsbreadth. You have no idea what to do. You don’t even have time to cry out. You can only raise your eyes and lift up your heart to God.

You should constantly lift up your heart to God in exactly the same way. Go aside and cry out to God. For everyone is in great danger in this world – as you know very well deep inside your soul. Understand these words very carefully. Rebbe Nachman, Sichot Haran #117

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It occurred to me that I ought to take my wife and go off to some remote place where I could live in secrecy out of everyone’s sight. From time to time I would step out into the street and take a look at the world and laugh at everyone and everything. Rebbe Nachman, ~ Chayey Moharan #259

“The world such as it is, I have no use for except to blow my nose in it.” “But rabbi”, his disciples asked, “what of man? The world may be despicable but surely man is more. Man is noble, a creature of dignity, created in the image of God.” “Nonsense, ” replied the Kotzker. “I will tell you what man is: an inveterate liar, an addict of comforting illusions, always deceiving himself, flying from reality, devoted to the pursuit of mendacity.” “First, a man is created in his own image, and only afterwards in the image of God.”

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