19 Av 5780 / Sunday, August 09, 2020 | Torah Reading: Eikev
 
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Matot: Repeat - Again and Again    

Matot: Repeat - Again and Again



What practical way can we increase our faith during this special time of the Three Weeks? Prayer, and especially Tikkun Chatzos.

 



The beginning of this Torah portion talks about the laws of vows and oaths. Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the Children of Israel, saying: This is the thing that Hashem has commanded: If a man takes a vow to Hashem or swears an oath to establish a prohibition upon himself, he shall not desecrate his word; according to whatever comes from his mouth he shall do” (Chapter 30, Verses 2-3). How does this apply to our lives today? 

 

Rabbi Natan of Breslev teaches that we can learn from this Torah portion the incredible power of speech, because immediately when a person expresses a vow or an oath, he is obligated to fulfill what he just said. This mitzvah of making a vow is something lofty and wondrous. We learn from this portion the great power that a person has to create new mitzvahs which he was not commanded to do! For example, a person can prohibit himself from eating or doing something which is permitted by the Torah, and immediately this object is prohibited to him as a Torah prohibition (until he nullifies his vow). This is an amazing concept!  

 

Rabbi Natan emphasizes that we see from this special mitzvah of vows and oaths the power of a person’s choice, and the main aspect of his power of choice is through his speech and his heart. When someone desires in their heart to make themselves holier or to distance themselves from something negative and they express their desire in words, this expression becomes a law of the Torah (vows). He forbids himself from something and it becomes a Torah prohibition. The main aspect of vows and oaths is to help us become holier and distance ourselves from negative desires, as the sages taught in Pirkei Avot - vows are a protection for abstinence. The vow is fulfilled when a person expresses it with their mouths (Likutei Halachot, Laws of the Morning Blessings, 5th teaching). 

 

We have begun this week a three-week time period of mourning over the destruction of the Temple, culminating with the fast of Tisha B’Av. Rebbe Nachman teaches in the 7th teaching of Likutei Moharan, Part One, that the main reason for our being in a state of galut (exile) is a lack of emuna (faith). Therefore, the redemption, the coming of the Mashiach, and the rebuilding of the Temple will come when true faith spreads in the world.  

 

What is a practical way that we can work on increasing our faith during this special time period of the Three Weeks? Prayer. Prayer is the most powerful expression of our faith in Hashem. I can’t see Hashem, I can’t hear Him speaking to me, yet I turn to Him in prayer and converse with Him, because I believe that He hears and answers my prayers. Rebbe Nachman teaches in another lesson, the 44th teaching in Part Two that our faith depends on our mouths. When we speak words of faith with our mouths, this in itself is faith, and also through the words of prayer and faith which we express, we will merit to increase our faith. As Rabbi Arush says: “Emuna is prayer, and prayer is emuna.” 

 

Rebbe Nachman also discusses the custom of saying a special order of prayers called Tikun Chatzot  The Midnight Lamentations, which are psalms and lamentations about the exile and the destruction of the Temple. He explains that we can express ourselves and whatever difficulties we might be going through currently through the words of Tikun Chatzot, as if they were our own words.  

 

Rebbe Nachman adds to this teaching that the main advice and the most fundamental advice to come closer to Hashem is only through reading psalms and other supplications, and speaking to Hashem in our own words in personal prayer. Only by way of prayer can a person win the battle with the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination). Don’t stop and don’t give up until you see that Hashem answers your prayers!  

 

Rabbi Natan adds that prayer is something which the Sages said always needs strengthening, as it says in Tehillim (Psalms): “Hope to Hashem; strengthen yourself and He will give you courage, and hope to Hashem” (Chapter 27, Verse 14). Rabbi Natan concludes that even though we have spoken about prayer several times before in our teachings, nevertheless we need to speak about it again and again, and remember it every day, in order to strengthen ourselves against all the different types of confusion and weakness which try to stop us from praying (Likutei Moharan, Torah 101, Part Two). 

 

When I read this teaching about the power of speech, I asked myself if perhaps I shouldn’t write again about prayer and the power of speech, since I’ve already written about the same subject recently in these articles. Look for something else to share, I heard a voice inside saying. Nevertheless, as Rabbi Natan emphasized, prayer is something which we always need to strengthen, and these three weeks of mourning are a special time of prayer, longing and reflection.  

 

Even though this is a spiritually and emotionally difficult time of the year when many tragedies happened to the Jewish people, it is also a very powerful time for connecting in a deeper way to our faith and to longing for what we are still lacking as individuals and as a people. When we lament what we are lacking during this time of the year, we will also merit the joy of the redemption to come, speedily in our days. 

 

*** 

Republished with permission from breslov.blog. 

 

 





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