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A Dvar Torah for Ha'azinu

Our Dvar Torah: All Things are Purified by Consciousness
A Dvar Torah for Ha'azinu: Deuteronomy 32:1-52

By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman ben Ya'akov © September 24, 2020

Torah reading for DAY ONE: Genesis 21:1–34: Page 389 in mahzur. In this section HaShem commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Issac on Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. Isaac is bound and placed on the altar, and Abraham raises the knife to slaughter his son, but a voice from heaven calls out to stop him, saying that it was only a test; HaShem neither requires nor accepts human sacrifices. A ram, caught in the undergrowth by its horns, is offered in Isaac’s place. From this ram we received the mitzvah of hearing the shofar, the ram's horn.

Our Dvar Torah: "Rosh Hashanah is Greater than Everything"

For Rebbe Nachman of Breslov Rosh Hashanah was the most important of all holidays, other than Shabbat of course. Rosh Hashanah is the first of the annual High Holy Days. It is observed on the first and second day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei at the beginning of the Yamim Noraim (the Ten Days of Awe). Tishrei has the distinction of being the month of the High Holy Days.

During Tishrei our religious services are longer, more frequent, and often quite intense. Following as it does the month of Elul, the month of actively seeking forgiveness, Tishrei challenges us, did we take full advantage of the King's willingness to settle all debts and bring restoration? For those who have failed to do so, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, may bring a sense of dread, and even fear, as Yamim Noraim draws to a close. But first, for those who have prepared themselves, comes the joy of Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection and repentance. Those who failed to make proper teshuvah during Elul are offered ten more days to do so before the divine books are sealed for the year. These ten days culminate in the Yom Kippur observances.

The name means "Head of the Year." In the Scriptures Rosh Hashanah is also referred to as Yom HaZikkaron (the Day of Remembrance) and Yom Teruah (the Day of Sounding the Shofar). Although we sound the shofar each weekday morning during Elul, on Rosh Hashanah they are sounded with more intensity as detailed in our Tradition. The observance of the day is instituted at Leviticus 23:23-25:

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
24 Speak to the Israelite people thus: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts.
25 You shall not work at your occupations; and you shall bring an offering by fire to the LORD (sefaria.org).

Happy Birthday Adam Rishon and Chavah!

There are many reasons for all Jewish observances. Among these is the belief that Rosh Hashanah is a global birthday party for Adam Rishon, the first man and his wife Chavah, the "life giver." As such it is a day of gratitude to HaShem, our Creator. Our tradition says that:

On the first of Tishrei in 3761 BCE the Holy One created Adam Rishon from the soil of Har HaBayit, the Holy Jerusalem Temple Mount, at Mount Moriah. Tradition has it that Adam's creation took place on Even ha-Shetiyah, "the Foundation Stone," which is now located within the Muslim Dome of the Rock shrine. Of this place we are told:

"As the navel is set in the center of the human body, so is the land of Israel the navel of the world... it is situated in the center of the world, and Jerusalem in the center of the land of Israel, and the sanctuary in the center of Jerusalem, and the holy place in the center of the sanctuary, and the ark in the center of the holy place, and the foundation stone [Even ha-Shetiyah] before the holy place, because from it the world was founded." –Midrash Tanchuma,

How was this accomplished? According to the Holy Zohar:

"When the Holy One, blessed be He, was about to create world, He detached one precious stone from underneath His throne of glory and plunged it into the abyss; one end of it remained fastened therein, whilst the other end stood above...out of which the world started, spreading itself to the right and left and into all directions."

This "precious stone" was the Even ha-Shetiyah. It was the first dry land seen by Noach as the great flood waters receded. This was also the Rock where G-d told Avraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (and where Isaac, no mere child, agreed). Furthermore, King David placed the Ark of the Covenant on this Rock and declared that in the future it would be the site of the Holy Temple. For Jews this Sacred Rock is second only to the Holy of Holies itself in sacredness. It is a disgrace that the secular nation of Israel continues to allow the Jordanian Authority to control this area where Adam Rishon was created and so many of the other major events of our history took place. This needs to be remedied.

Later Adam was taken from the Sacred Jerusalem Rock to Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden), located south of modern Baghdad. We are all "Adam!" We remember this history on Rosh Hashanah with joy and thanksgiving to our Creator.

Not only is Rosh Hashanah the birthday of humanity, it is the birthday of the planet itself! Our sages disagree about the literalness afforded to the seven days of creation account, whether these should be considered as 24 hour days or time periods of uncertain duration, however when we take the Bereshit (Genesis) accounts literally, we conclude based on the testimony of our sages, that the world was created in 3761 BCE, which is to say, 1 Ha'luach Ha'ivri according to the Hebrew Calendar. Today we welcome year 5779. So, Happy Birthday to us all!

If you are a Breslov Chassid or an admirer of Rebbe Nachman, and have the means to do so, you may wish to join the thousands of Breslover Jews and others in the annual pilgrimage to Uman, Ukraine. Breslovers travel there from the far reaches of the planet to visit the grave site of our Rebbe, the great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov. Rebbe Nachman devoted his short life to breathing fresh air into the musty tombs and shuls of the Jews. He was completely orthodox in his views and practices, however he realized that something significant was missing from Judaism, something his great grandfather had identified earlier when he began Chassidut Judaism.

Rebbe Nachman realized that too many of his fellow Jews lacked joy and meaningful experiences in their Jewish lives. Our Rebbe therefore merged the inner mysteries of Kabbalah, the intellectualism of amazing Torah scholarship, inspiring folk tales and parables, with practical instructions on attaining personal, experiential spirituality and devekut ("attachment to G-d"). His was an orthodox religious philosophy centered on speaking to God directly in ones own native language without the need of any mediators, including the rabbinic establishment. He proclaimed that the common Jew is as precious in HaShem's sight as the most prestigious Torah scholar, sometimes more so! He stressed the importance of hitbodedut, secluded personal prayer, as the way for common people to ascend to the heights of holiness and divine communion through emunah, motivating faith. Not surprisingly his practical spirituality brought him into conflict with the highly intellectualized Rabbinate of his day. Of this controversy he once said: "The Mitnagdim [i.e. the opponents of the Chassidim] say that the main thing is to study Torah. The Chassidim say the main thing is prayer. But I say: Pray and study and pray (Siach Sarfey Kodesh 1-87).

It was Rebbe Nachman's desire that each Rosh Hashanah his talmidim (students) should come and visit him in Uman. As Breslovers we accept that the Rebbe completed his tikkun (soul correction) and remained alive solely out of love for his students. In his vast humility he said, "There is nothing I need to do for myself in this world at all. I came into the world only to bring Jewish souls closer to G-d. But I can only help someone who comes to me and tells me what he needs" (Chayey Moharan #307). And as Breslovers we continue to do so by the thousands! His fortunate talmidim receive magnificent blessings and spiritual direction.

Before the Rebbe's passing he said: "I want to remain among you. You should come to my grave" (Chayey Moharan #197). He also made a promise that no other Tzaddik in the whole of Jewish history had ever made. Taking as his witnesses Rabbi Aaron, Rav of the town of Breslov, and Reb Naftali, his second closest disciple after Reb Nosson, Rabbi Nachman said:

Bear witness to my words. When my days are over and I leave this world, I will still intercede for anyone who comes to my grave, says these Ten Psalms and gives a penny to charity. No matter how great his sins, I will do everything in my power, spanning the length and breadth of creation, to save him and cleanse him."

A few months after Rebbe Nachman's passing, Reb Nosson led the first pilgrimage to his grave. The Rebbe's widow arranged for the construction of a small structure over the grave, which became a focal point for regular visits by Breslover Chassidim and many others for over 130 years.

During the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941 a hand grenade exploded at the grave site, completely destroying the structure built over it. After World War II the devastated cemetery and surrounding area were designated for suburban housing. However, the plot of land containing the grave was acquired by a Breslover chassid, who designed a house with an exterior wall and window alongside the grave in order to discourage anyone from building over it later. The grave was covered by an unmarked slab and enclosed in the private yard attached to the house, which later passed into the hands of gentiles.

The Breslover Chassidim who remained in Russia after the war knew the location of the grave and continued to visit it even in the darkest periods of communist repression. From the 1960's and particularly in the late 1970's and '80's Rebbe Nachman's grave in Uman became a magnet for steadily increasing numbers of visitors from Israel, Europe, North America and other parts of the world.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union and the establishment of Ukraine as an independent republic in 1991, control of the grave site was acquired by the Breslover Chassidim, who replaced the old house with a new Beit Midrash and facilities for the tens of thousands who visit annually and particularly for Rosh Hashanah -- [Portions of this section are from Azamra.com]

It is therefore part of Breslov minhag to recite the tikkun Haklali, the "General Remedy" found in ten specially selected Psalms, especially on both days of Rosh Hashanah. We have incorporated these into our service.

When one realizes on Rosh Hashanah that the purifications performed during the month of Elul have prepared one to stand before the King of kings with a pure consciousness, it is the greatest of all joys! Rosh Hashanah is the day of new beginnings! Everything from before has been rectified and relegated to the past as we begin the new year with a clean slate! What joy! What happiness such a person enjoys even if he or she is unable to sit with the tzadikim in Uman. With the proper kavanah or intention our souls journey to the grave of our great Rebbe even when our bodies are not able to do so. We mentally offer charity and open our hearts to the truth of Torah. There is nothing like this!

Through Rosh Hashanah we are most able to join together in unity. Unity with our fellows since we have made amends during Elul, Unity with our Rebbe and the other tzadikim because we have embrace and actualize their teachings, and Unity or Devekut with HaShem because we are blessed to approach Him with a pure consciousness of Love.

Let's learn more about this at Likutey Moharan Lesson 61:7 and 8.

May you have such a Rosh Hashanah and Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe.

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