26 Av 5781 / Wednesday, August 04, 2021 | Torah Reading: Re'eh
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The First Step    

The First Step

As soon as a person says in his heart that he wants to get closer to Hashem, even if he hasn't yet made the first tangible step, he's already considered to be a tzaddik…


Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody



Don't underestimate the power of a mere contemplation of teshuva. As soon as a person says in his heart that he wants to get closer to Hashem, even if he hasn't yet made the first tangible step toward doing a mitzvah or getting closer to Hashem, he is judged as a completely righteous person and is rewarded with a signature of blessings in the Book of Life for the coming year. Our sages in the Gemara say that the perfect tzaddikim – the completely righteous people – are immediately rewarded on Rosh Hashana with a signature of blessings in the Book of Life for the coming year. Anyone can attain this, immediately! Simply say, "Master of the World, help me return to You. Help me get close to You; help me rectify whatever I need to rectify." Do this and you become a perfect tzaddik!


The way to prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashana is to do teshuva. How does a person do teshuva? Without Rebbe Nachman, I have no idea. Rebbe Nachman writes that we must make the path of teshuva easy for people. So what's the easy way? Just make an appointment with Hashem and talk to Him. "Hashem, my Father in Heaven, I want to get close to You. The truth is that I have an evil inclination that's constantly fighting me and tempting me to do things that are against Your will. I don't want to succumb to the evil inclination but I frequently lack the resolve to resist it. Help me do Your will, Hashem, and help me overcome the evil inclination. No one but You can help me. I want to cling to You, Hashem, but the reality is that it's difficult for me. I want You, Hashem, but I often fall on my face. Hashem, I want You and not the evil inclination."


When you speak to Hashem in such a candid and innocent way, you enter Rosh Hashana as a perfect tzaddik. Therefore, there is no greater gift in the world than speaking to Hashem.


When we believe in Hashem, we love Hashem. By the same token, when we believe in ourselves, we love ourselves too. When you love someone, you want to give them the greatest gift on earth. Nothing is greater than your own private audience with the King of Kings. That's why personal prayer is a virtue above all other virtues. Loving yourself means giving yourself an hour a day to speak to Hashem. There is no greater gift that you can give yourself. The reason that you lack joy in life is because you lack that daily hour with the King.


Do you love yourself or not? The proof is whether you speak to Hashem or not, for there is no greater gift that you can give yourself. If you really love yourself, then you'll enable yourself to speak to Hashem in your own words every single day.


One cannot fathom the greatness of Rebbe Nachman. He had the entire Torah on his fingertips – the revealed Torah, the esoteric Torah, Gemara, Kabbala and Shulchan Aruch. His soul was able to ascend to the highest places in the spiritual realm and he saw what few if any other mortals ever saw. His entire life was devoted to serving Hashem. And with all this, Rebbe Nachman said that personal prayer is a virtue that is above all other virtues.


When a person speaks to Hashem in his own language and assesses himself every day while taking stock of all the blessings in life and taking nothing for granted, he discovers how many reasons he has to thank Hashem and his heart fills with joy. Every single expression of gratitude opens the gate of salvation. And, even if you're tongue-tied, just being with Hashem for an hour a day invokes phenomenal blessings. Who else on earth can help you? Only Hashem! Ein od milvado - there is no one but Him Who is always at your side…


Rebbe Nachman commanded us to be happy all year long. Speaking to Hashem daily keeps a person happy. Even more so, by thanking Hashem, a person merits miraculous salvations. The gate of salvation remains open to the grateful individual and he or she sees more and more successes. Their successes and happiness continue in a lovely upward spiral for Hashem is always giving them more and more reasons to say "thank-You." Saying "thank-You" continues the momentum of success, and you'll see how one success leads to another.


Yet remember to always judge yourself fairly. Don't persecute yourself ever; only look for your good points. Just as we can't get through life without believing in Hashem, we must believe in ourselves as well. Believing in ourselves means believing in our power of prayer and gratitude. Hashem is happy to answer our prayers because a person is so highly encouraged when he sees that he attained something by way of prayer. What joy is the knowledge that there's always someone to turn to – Hashem! Don't ever deny yourself this fabulous gift.


But what happens? The evil inclination jumps on a person and says, "Who in the world are you to speak to Hashem? Hashem doesn't want to hear your voice. You might as well have a good time in this world and do whatever you want, because there's no way you'll ever please Hashem. Forget it – you're finished!"


The evil inclination is a liar. Hashem loves you just the way you are and He's delighted to hear your voice, just like you're delighted to hear the voice of someone you really love. What's more, when you speak to Hashem and judge yourself, no one else is allowed to judge you or say a single negative thing about you, neither man nor accusing angel. What could be better? This is the greatest comfort a person could have.

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