11 Kislev 5781 / Friday, November 27, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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Awake at Night    

Awake at Night

Eye-opening Torah 52 from Rebbe Nachman’s classic “Likutei Moharan speaks about hitbodedut, one’s personal dialogue with God whereby a person can attain a oneness with Hashem.


Rebbe Nachman on Hitbodedut, part 3

Chambers of the Palace, Part 12
He Who is Awake at Night
“Rabbi Chanina ben Chachinai said, ‘He who is awake at night, goes on a path alone and turns his heart to void things—he makes his soul responsible” (Avot, 3:4).
That is, he should have been studying Torah, but now, during a time that is susceptible to evil influences, he is engaged in empty matters.
There are heretics who say that the world is a necessary existent. According to their evil and confused opinion, it appears that they have proofs from the nature of the world.
But in truth, “their mouths have spoken vanity” (from Job, 35:16). The world with everything in it is not a necessary existent.
God alone is a necessary existent. All the universes with all that is in them are not.
God created everything ex nihilo. It was within His ability to either create them or not. Therefore the entire universe with everything in it is not a necessary existent.
But what is the source of the error that the world is a necessary existent?
This comes from the fact that now, since the souls of Israel have been emanated and drawn down, the world is on the level of being a necessary existent.
The entire world and everything in it was only created for the sake of Israel, as is known (Vayikra Rabbah, chapter 36, and Rashi, beginning of Genesis).
[In that sense,] Israel rules the world. Therefore, now, after the souls of Israel have been emanated and created, God was so to speak forced to create and maintain the world. He emanated the souls of Israel in order to create for them all the universes.
But at the point that they were emanated, the souls of Israel were themselves, with all the universes that depend on them, not a necessary existent, for it was within God’s power to either emanate and create them or not. But as soon as God decided to emanate the souls of Israel, the whole world entered the level of being a necessary existent. This is because after the souls of Israel were emanated, God was obligated, so to speak, to make the world. Their souls were emanated so that all the universes would be created for them, and they would rule over everything. Understand this well.
From this has devolved the mistake of the heretics who say that the world is a necessary existent.
But in truth, only God Himself is a necessary existent—nothing else.
The main reason that God created the universe for the sake of Israel was that the people of Israel will do His will and return and cleave to their root—that is, God, Who is the necessary existent. For this reason, He created everything.
Whenever the people of Israel do God’s will and are absorbed in their root, which is the necessary existent, the entire universe that was created for their sake is absorbed into the necessary existent.
This is the purpose of the world’s creation. It is only for the sake of Israel that God is obligated, so to speak, to create and maintain all the universes.
The more that Jews do God’s will, the more are they absorbed with all the universes that depend on them into the necessary existent. Then all the worlds that depend on their souls are absorbed with them into the necessary existent.
But this absorption into one’s root—that is, in God’s oneness, Who is the necessary existent—is impossible unless one nullifies oneself.
One must nullify oneself completely until one is absorbed into God’s oneness.
It is only possible to come to nullification via hitbodedut.
When one sets oneself aside and speaks freely to God, then one can nullify all one’s desires and bad character traits until one nullifies all of one’s physicality and is absorbed into one’s root.
Bitul—nullification—is a nullification of this-worldly limitations that inhibit one’s true self. When one accomplishes bitul, one does not become a mindless or passive agent. To the contrary, one becomes even more motivated and powerful than before. Similarly, Rabbi Nachman points out that the power of bitul is not something that one uses to escape the universe, but rather to bring the entire universe to its ultimate state, which is total alignment with God’s energy.
Hitbodedut is in essence related to the night, when the world rests from its labors. During the day, when people are running after the things of this world, the world keeps a person from clinging to and being absorbed in God. Even if the person himself isn’t taken up with this, since everyone else is running after the vanities of this world, it is hard for him to come to bitul.
Also, hitbodedut must be in a special place—that is, outside the city, in a lone, unfrequented area. A place that people frequent during the day, chasing after the things of this world, confuses one’s hitbodedut even though they aren’t there at present, and one cannot nullify oneself and be absorbed in God. One must go alone at night to a lone place, a place where there are no people. There one should do hitbodedut, turning one’s heart and consciousness from all the things of this world, and nullifying everything until one comes to true bitul.
At first, one should engage in a great deal of prayer and talk in one’s hitbodedut at night on a lone way, until one nullifies one unrefined character trait and lust. Then one should again engage a great deal in hitbodedut until one nullifies another such unrefined character trait. One should continue in this way for a long time in hitbodedut, at that time and place, until one nullifies everything.
Afterwards, when something is still left over, he should nullify that until nothing at all remains.
(That is to say, it is possible that even after he has nullified all of his lusts and bad traits, he still hasn’t completely nullified his egotism and grossness, and he still appears to be a something in his own eyes. So he must toil and do a great deal of hitbodedut until nothing of him remains, until he truly reaches the spiritual level indicated by the word “what” and comes to the level of bitul.)
When he comes to true bitul, his soul is absorbed into its source—that is, into God, Who is the necessary existent. Then the entire world is absorbed with his soul into its source, which is the necessary existent, for everything depends on his soul. Then the whole world becomes a necessary existent.
Now you will see how all this is explained in the above-quoted mishnah.
“A person who is awake at night,” in its simple meaning—he is awake at night and doing hitbodedut, speaking freely to God.
“And who goes on a lone road”—he goes on a lone path, in a place where people don’t go. This is the best type of hitbodedut: at night and on a lone path. Then one can come to the level of bitul.
“And turns one’s heart to void things”—he turns his heart from all the things of this world to a void, in order to come to nullification.
Then one merits that one’s soul will be absorbed into the necessary existent. Then all the universes are included with one’s soul in the necessary existent.
“Behold, he is responsible for his soul.” The entire world has been included with his soul into the necessary existence.
He literally “makes his soul responsible,” (mitchayev), which is related to the word “necessary” (mechuyav).
Via hitbodedut, one reaches bitul, when one’s soul is absorbed into the necessary existent. As a result, the world has been absorbed together with one’s soul into the necessary existent, and one’s soul and all the world reach the level of being a necessary existent. (Likkutei Moharan 52)
“I Will Run Through the Marketplace!”
When Rabbi Nosson heard this teaching he was so moved that his physical self was nullified and he cried out, “Gevalt! I will run through the marketplaces and streets and I will cry, Gevalt! What are people thinking about?”
His heart burned so strongly that he was practically no longer human. He really wanted to run out and shout like this.
But Rabbi Nachman grabbed him by his jacket and said to him, “Stay here. You won’t accomplish anything.” (Kochavei Ohr, p. 12)
(From “Chambers of the Palace”, an anthology of Rebbe Nachman’s writings abridged and translated by Yaacov Dovid Shulman. Writer, translator, and editor Yaacov Dovid Shulman can be contacted at: yacovdavid@gmail.com)

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  1 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  everyday bitul in practise....
yehudit levy9/16/2008 11:07:35 PM

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