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7 Character

In order to experience a close relationship to Hashem, one must work on character and attitude. Giving tzedakah – charity is the key to obtaining these qualities. Charity is not just in money or even gifts, but it is expressed in the way we speak or listen to every person. Doing Hesed, practicing random acts of love and kindness,[809] is another way to improve midos. Nevertheless, we must also take care of ourselves.

Text 7-1: Rabbi Hillel in the Mishnah Perkei Avos – Sayings of the Fathers

If I am not for myself, who am I
If I am only for myself, what am I
If not now, when

Having a positive view of others and the world improves others and the world.

The way one looks at the world is the kind of world one shall have.[810]

7.1 Consideration

Consideration is to accommodate others without them asking. Though it is one of the most overlooked character qualities, it is perhaps the most important, encompassing all other qualities in some manner. In the house of Israel, those who are masters of consideration are like one of the Lamid Vav(nicks) of the work for whose merit the world is preserved.

For example, if one is standing in a group talking, and someone has a cast on his ankle, then it is considerate to suggest that the group move to a table to sit to continue their conversation.[811] To do so without revealing the reason is even a finer level of consideration. Consideration without expecting anyone to notice is a mitzvah par excellence.

Of all the peoples of the world, the Jewish nation is the most considerate of nations. This is often overlooked and doubted; yet this humble nation refuses to overpopulate to give their children and children’s children the same breathing space that they enjoyed in their lifetimes. The Jewish birth rate being low is a merit to the Jewish people in the matter of consideration.

7.2 Envy

Text 7-2: Rabbi Akiba on Slander (Yoma 38b)
When I came and told thereof to R. Akiba he said: ‘Henceforth it is forbidden to speak of them in dispraise’ — Referring to this Ben Azzai said: By your name you will be called, to your place you will be restored and from what belongs to you will you be given. No man can touch what is prepared for his fellow and ‘One kingdom does not interfere with the other even to the extent of one hair's breadth’

Hashem ordains the reward that each person receives in this world. To envy there is no purpose. Often, the lack of a powerful position in society is a blessing, leaving one more time for Torah learning and developing true wisdom.

7.3 Faith

To the degree that we feel something is missing in our life relates to a lack of faith. For the world has everything we need. A person with complete faith – Emunah Shlaima is satisfied with life. If something bad happens, they understand the purpose of that event. People complain according to their lack of complete faith. “Each person has something missing due to the amount of faith that is lacking – that which is missing from perfection in Emunah... those who have most missing are philosophers.”[812] Such people cannot find happiness in life. Those with complete Emunah find happiness even in suffering. People with Emunah are always happy. This is the reason that Rabbi Nachman of Breslov stressed happiness. For happiness is ultimately Emunah.

Hence, the Ribono shel Olam in his Wisdom designed the world in such a way that divine existence is not self-evident. Unnatural miracles cannot be scientifically proven. All personal evidence of the divine is anecdotal in order to magnify the greatness of faith. Faith applies to our relationship with G-d. Also the Torah says the people believed in his servant Moses, who possessed the highest level of prophecy.

Also we are permitted to question the Torah, which is part of the process of Torah study. This is the interpretative process. In addition, we can observe the world with scientific method and apply our findings to the Torah to correct interpretations. Hashem governs the world by natural law, which is fitting to study and use in an occupation.

7.4 Chesed

Chesed is overflowing with good deeds for others. Abraham epitomizes this quality with his open tent policy towards strangers. The essence of chesed is to be aware of people, animals, and plants around oneself and to perform a good deed when the opportunity arises. This should be done swiftly as if one is being pursued by or pursuing the glory of heaven.[813]

Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty

The Alter of Slobodka, Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel said:

All human beings are precious, for they contain the image of G-d.
Man is therefore obligated to honor his fellowman and shower him with chesed
for by so doing he is honoring G-d. He must be careful not to embarrass or
abuse another person, for by so doing he is slighting G-d.[814]

7.5 Charity

The Orchos Tzaddikim discusses the ways of giving charity. To give with a smile or to purchase what a person needs in advance is charity with loving kindness, tzedakah with hesed. Giving frequently to those in particular need is greater than a single large gift. One should be prepared to recognize and execute on the opportunity of tzedakah. This is an aspect of zealousness according to the M’silat Ysharim. Giving in secret is greater with one’s neighbor, so that no one feels embarrassed by having their need recognized.

I have a friend who taught me the meaning of charity. She prepares for meeting those in need by purchasing food certificates in advance to give to the homeless. When seeing someone in need, she would stop to talk with the person to see what she wants, whether she is hungry. She would take her time talking to the person showing chesed,[815] while others find themselves simply giving charity.

The rewards for charity are enumerated in the Talmud and Bible:

Text 7-3: Talmud on the Rewards for Charity
הנותן פרוטה לעני מתברך בשש ברכות, והמפייסו נדברים מתברך באחת-עברה ברכות
(To appease – לפייס)
The giver of a coin to the poor is blessed with six blessings,
One who consoles him with words with eleven blessings.
(Bava Batra 9b)

Rabbi Nachman teaches that these blessings complete to seven for the seven planets and twelve for the twelve constellations when the reward of observing the Shabbat is added to both which overcomes the mazelot—hence charity saves from death.[816] For example, Abraham’s mazel was changed through charity so that he was permitted to have children.

ISA 58:7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

ISA 58:8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward.

ISA 58:9 Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

A. The rewards for charity in money are:
  1. Shining light from ones own soul
  2. Health
  3. Righteous behavior will be easier.
  4. Awareness of the glory of G-d.
  5. Requests answered from G-d.
  6. Cries heard and response from G-d.

ISA 58:10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:

ISA 58:11 And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

ISA 58:12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.

B. The rewards for consoling another with words are:
  1. A personal radiant light
  2. Darkness removed from ones soul
  3. Guidance from G-d.
  4. Quenching the thirst of the soul.
  5. Fattening the bones, which purges the sin that weakens the bones.
  6. Beautiful growth
  7. An endless source of inspiration for others
  8. Children who will rebuild downtrodden places.
  9. Children who will build up later generations in wisdom.
  10. Become known as one that repairs the divisions of the world.
  11. Restore paths to dwell in.

The ‘paths to dwell in’ are the ways of Torah. Restoration of the paths is necessary when the people around are devoid of spiritual interests.

The Shabbat is likened to charity:
שמש בשבת צדקה לעניים
Sunshine on Shabbat is charity to the poor/homeless.

“When the Sun shines brightly on Shabbat, the pauper is spared appearing in the street in his tattered overcoat. The sun on Shabbat is thus a kindness/charity for him.”[817]

ISA 58:13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

ISA 58:14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

The rewards for Shabbat described here are three:
  1. Delight in G-d.
  2. Walk upon the high places of the world, i.e. mountainous splendor or spiritual heights.
  3. Receive the nourishment of the true life of Jacob, i.e. good children and family.

7.6 Joy

ושמחתם לפני יי
And you (plural) shall rejoice before the Lord
(Deuteronomy 12:12)

The word sameach – שמח means happiness or joy. The root sahm – שם means put, suggesting that one must put joy into one’s own heart. The plural suffix of ‘rejoice’ teaches that we should rejoice with others as opposed to being alone. Every person’s life goes up and down, yet each of us can choose to be happy. We can choose to make other people happy. Hardships turn a person back to God and joy brings love and closeness to G-d.[818] One who is loved by man, is loved by God. That is when we help others spreading love, this is more significant than even our worship of God. God doesn’t need our prayers or sacrifices, but looks down like a father taking greater pleasure in how his children treat each other.

The Orchos Tzaddikim writes that one should wake up each day amazed with the world around. To see the Sun move across the sky in its course, and the plants around growing, the stars above shining in their constellations, and the planets advancing and regressing, brings one to an amazement with G-d’s creation. If we wake up each day and remind ourselves of how precious the world is, our joy with life will always grow and give us happiness.

âí æå ìèåáä
This, too, is for the good
(Ta’anis 21a – Nachum Ish Gamzu)

Nachum Ish Gamzu was bedridden in his later years of poverty. He was so poor and sick that his bedposts rested in posts of water so insects couldn’t crawl onto his bed. Once his students visited and were aghast at their teacher’s condition. They asked how could his life’s righteousness lead him into such suffering. He replied, on the contrary, how good his life is because of this suffering. Because of this suffering there will be atonement in this world for my sins, rather than in the world to come.

כל מה דעבד רחמנא לטב עבד
All that the Merciful One does is for the good
(Berachos 60b)

All difficulty has a purpose if only to test our soul or to remind us of how thankful we need to be. The name of G-d here is Rachmana whose root Rechem means womb. This teaches us that the unconditional love that a mother feels for her unborn child is the same infinite mercy that G-d feels for us. Moreover, we see that a feminine quality is the basis for this name of G-d here.

Text 7-4: Thankful


















7.7 Anger

To relieve anger, hatred, and resentment let the emotions pour out of oneself like water. Visualization of water is the key as cool water carries away bitterness, the polluted waters. The physical ailment that corresponds to anger is food poisoning, since Torah is our food and anger is its poison. The body heals itself from food poisoning by flushing itself with water for 36 hours. Thirty-six hours is the amount of time necessary to regain one’s heart, which is the spiritual component of the cure.

Text 7-5: Vengeance
Vengeance is a water vessel with a hole. It carries nothing but the promise of emptiness.[820]
Be diplomatic instead of angry. Diplomacy, after all, is the art of doing and saying the nastiest things in the nicest possible way.[821] Diplomacy is more effective than anger in getting a message across.

Jacob had prophesied, “I will divide them in Yaakov, and disperse them in Israel” because of their anger and excessive punishment of the people of Shechem.[822] Levi was scattered throughout Israel in the Cities of Refuge. Though they were selected to be priestly servants, they were humbled by their dependence on charity, by the difficulties of those they would dwell amongst in these cities, and finally the distances between their families throughout the land. Similarly, Shimon was allocated a portion of land in the midst of Judah. In the end, they were forced to give up their land as Judah’s numbers expanded and they became teachers of children and poor wanderers.[823] Nevertheless, the teaching of children helped them develop self-control. This is always the way of Hashem and we must always learn to see the gift and lesson in any suffering.[824]

The time to avoid anger is before it begins.[825] The intellect should prevent this emotion from arising. There are three periods in anger:

According to ‘Love the Neighbor’[826] there are three stages to anger:

The key to avoiding anger is to change one’s interpretation of the cause. For example, one should not assume that an insult is self-directed, but instead reflects another’s difficult day or preoccupation with problems. Fasting is a tikkun for anger. Fasting brings returning and repentance.

As the tzaddik speaks so G-d fulfils, but there is also mido cnegdo mido. Guard one’s tongue to guard all life. We are taught from the “Ways of the Tzaddik”:[827]

Text 7-6: Guard One’s Tongue to Guard All Life
Although anger is an extremely bad trait, one must sometimes conduct himself in accordance with this trait, like when it is necessary to chastise the wicked, or to instill fear in the members of his household, or to cast his fear upon his students. And when one is angry with transgressors, he must weight the extent of his anger.

Because Moshe our teacher, may peace be upon him, said to the children of Reuven and Gad (Numbers 32:14): “You are a brood of sinful men,” his descendant became a priest of idols—even though he was angry for the sake of Heaven. All of man’s actions require the proper measure. He must deliberate how to perform the mitzvos, both when angry and when in good spirits.
Know that the ripeness of a man’s intellect is the governing of his anger, as it is written (Proverbs 19:11): “A man’s intellect is the withholding of his anger.”[828]

The following story describes the challenges of dealing with some people.[829]

Text 7-7: Rabbi Joseph Gelberman on Patience
I was told this story by my father who was told it by his father and is probably told by others as well. There was a Rabbi who was giving a lecture one Shabbas. In the audience there was a person who interrupted the Rabbi and said, “That is not correct.” Others in the group were aghast and wanted to ask him to leave, but the Rabbi said it was OK, thought briefly, and than corrected himself continuing. Again this person spoke up and again the Rabbi corrected what he was saying. This went on for a period of a half an hour when finally the Rabbi asked someone to remove him from the audience.

Afterwards the Rabbi was praying and felt that G-d was dissatisfied with his behavior. He remarked to himself that he had been through 15 interruptions from this person in 30 minutes and had been patient. Nevertheless, he heard G-d saying, “I am disappointed in you. I’ve been putting up with this person for 50 years and you couldn’t put up with him for just one Shabbas.”

A technique to stay calm and reduce anger is to talk in a slow manner about stressful subjects. Though the content will be the same, one will not feel angry or tense.[830]

Prophecy never comes to a prophet unless he is in a happy state of mind. Jehoshaphat came to Elisha to seek the prophecy of G-d, but Elisha displayed anger at the king, and thus could not receive prophecy. To restore his spirit, Elisha requests music, which brings the air of joy, which is essential for prophecy. [831]

Text 7-8: Elisha requests a Minstrel to prepare for Prophecy
And Elisha said to the king of Israel, What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father, and to the prophets of your mother. And the king of Israel said to him, No; for the Lord has called these three kings together, to deliver them to the hand of Moab. And Elisha said, As the Lord of Hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward you, nor see you. But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. And he said, Thus said the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus said the Lord, you shall not see wind, neither shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that you may drink, both you, and your cattle, and your beasts. And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord; he will deliver the Moabites also to your hand.

Music corresponds to the world of Atzulut, that which is nearest to the Lord. Music refreshes a person, increases joy, and patience.

Text 7-9: Ecclesiastes 9:17
The words of the wise spoken peacefully are heard – דברי חכמים בנחת נשמעים

The word, ‘peacefully’ – b’nachat means with quietness, restfulness, or gentleness. In other words a soft voice is heard. A soft voice turns away wrath.[832] “The Chazon Ish once testified that his influence was due to the fact that he was careful with his tone of voice when he advised others.”[833]

Text 7-10: Sherrie B. Miller
Chazal teach us that to avoid being swept away by angry feelings, the hierarchy of “menschlech” behavior is firstly through thought, (using our mind), then emotions and only then can we properly spring into action. In Hebrew, the acronym for “moach” (mind), “lev” (heart/emotions), and “claiyot” (kidney, the symbol of action/behavior) is MeLeCh, King. By operating in light of this wise progression we achieve the regal identity and dignity of a king. When we act counter to this formula and confuse the order and give priority to our emotions we obtain, “lemech,” (fool) and when acting before thinking, I am “klum” (a nothing)! [834]

A lemech –למך , puts his emotions ahead of his mind, leading to unnecessary words, but his mind is before his actions so he survives. A klum – כלם makes quick decisions often putting actions before heart and mind. Sometimes quick action leads to survival, sometimes not. A king, melech – מלך puts his mind before his emotion and considers his emotions before he takes action, usually leading to the best results.

Vows are to be avoided according to the Torah, since one cannot know in advance of extenuating circumstances. Jephthah made a vow that if Hashem would grant him victory, he would sacrifice the first thing that would emerge from his house on his way home.

Text 7-11: Judges 11:31
"Whatever emerges and comes out from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, and that shall be to the Lord and offered up as an offering”.

Vows are a form of idolatry, because they turn a word into an idol, since ones word can cause one to violate the Torah. Those who try to extort promises become consumed with anger if they are not fulfilled. Vows lead to anger because of idolatry.

7.8 Taunting, Insulting, Misleading, Slander

Text 7-12: Path of the Just on Politeness
Do not taunt your neighbor.
This means that you must neither do nor say to him that which might shame him,
Though there be no one else present.
(M’silat Yesharim 11)[835]

Ignore insults and be glad to consider them atonement for sin.[836] (King David reacted this way upon hearing Shimi’s insults,[837] “Let him curse, since the Almighty must have told him to curse David!”).

Text 7-13: Naftali Hoffner on Ignoring Insults
When you refrain from reacting in the face of insults:
1. You will find favor in the eyes of the Almighty and you will win friends, as it says,[838] ‘People who are insulted but do not return insults, who are humiliated without replying in kind, but instead take their trials in stride – to them refers the verse,[839] “And His friends – will be like the sun rising to its noontime strength!”’
2. You shorten the time of the unpleasant confrontation because if you do not react, it makes no sense for the other side to continue with the insults.[840]

7.9 Greeting Others

I was always first to greet another, both Jew and non-Jew. — Yoachanan Ben Zakkai

This will bring one to a greater concern about the welfare of ones neighbor. A person should accustom oneself to seeing his neighbor and greeting him. Often people feel too shy and insecure to greet others. This is a lacking of self-esteem. They should give more charity, do acts of kindness, and then they will come to greet their neighbor and learn from their teachers with greater enthusiasm.

“If you see a person suffering, you give that person kind words to appease their suffering. This person is a M’daber, who is far above an ‘animal’ who is keeping Shamir haLashon, guarding of the word.”[841] There are also animals who when they see a person suffering will try to cheer them up. I have seen this with an African Gray parrot called Tov who would ‘bob’ his head up and down in an attempt to get one to sing.[842] Often pet dogs will come over to comfort their companions.

In the Talmud Tractate Shabbat: “Rabbi Judah said in the name of Rav: ‘The welcoming of guests is greater than greeting the Shekhinah.’ For Scripture says ‘PASS NOT AWAY, I PRAY YOU, FROM YOUR SERVANT’ (Gen. 18:3). Said Rabbi Eleazar: ‘Note that the ways of God are not those of man. Among people, a lesser person could not say to a greater one “Wait until I come to you,” but Abraham was able to say that to God.’” [843]

Text 7-14: Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl
This is what really happened to our father Abraham. He was engaged in discourse with God (“greeting the Shekhinah”), as we learn from the verse THE LORD APPEARED TO HIM. When he saw the guests coming, he asked of God that there too, while he was to be engaged in welcoming the guests, PASS NOT AWAY, I PRAY YOU, FROM YOUR SERVANT (Gen. 18:3). There too may I remain attached to You, so that this not be an empty mitzvah. Be with me so that I may perform the mitzvah in such a state that it too be a “greeting of the Shechinah.”

Now Rav’s point that the welcoming of guests is greater than greeting the Shechinah is proved by Abraham’s action. Were this not the case, Abraham would hardly have left off a conversation with God to go do something of less certain value. This is especially true since “they appeared to him as Arab nomads”; they did not have a divine appearance. The mitzvah itself was very great even if it were not a “greeting of the Shechinah.” Abraham decided to fulfill this commandment with absolute wholeness. Therefore he said: DO NOT PASS AWAY, I PRAY YOU, FROM YOUR SERVANT.

7.10 Honor

One should not seek after higher positions for honor. The avoidance of honor permits one to grow into a better person. If one is asked to take a higher position with an increased service, one should consider acceptance with the thought of being a good person always in the back of one’s mind. M’silat Ysharim has the following to say on the subject:[844]

Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, forfeited his share in the world to come only because he coveted honor. “The Holy One, blessed be He,” said to him, ‘Repent thee; and I, thou, and the son of Jesse will stroll together in the Garden of Eden.’ ‘Who will go first?’ asked Jeroboam. ‘The son of Jesse,’ answered the Holy One, blessed be He. ‘If so, I will not repent’” (Sanhedren 102a)

This teaches not to be jealous and seek after another’s position of honor.

What caused the destruction of Korah and his whole company if not the lust for honor, as we may infer from the fact that Moses said to them, “And seek ye also (the) priesthood?”[845] (Num. 16.10). And our Sages tell us that Korah rebelled because Elzaphan, the son of Uziel had been made prince, an appointment which he had coveted for himself (Num. R. 18.2).

This teaches us to recognize the honor that G-d has already granted us and be satisfied. Honor is like the lust for money that once we let it take hold of us, has vshalom—it will possess us in an endless desire.

What, if not the craving for honor, drove Saul to persecute David? We read, “And the women sang one to another in their play, and said, ‘Saul hath slain his thousands and David his ten thousands.’

One cannot be a hold fast king[846], but one must always relinquish, and let the superior of the next generation rise to leadership and honor. There are also great opportunities for charity.

7.11 Forgiveness

To forgive is to behave in the image of G-d.[847] There is a teaching from Talmud Tractate Rosh Hashanah that if one forgives slights or insults done to him, he will be forgiven of sins. This forgiveness is out of the side of divine justice since one is forgiven in kind for forgiving others. Forgiveness also dissolves anger, which opens a gateway to mercy.

Meditation 7-1: Forgiveness

On Yom Kippur 5757, I became irritated by the behavior of a few children, whose parents brought them to services, and were not reproving them on the proper way to behave in the sanctuary. However, as I thought about my anger, I wondered how possibly Hashem could forgive me for my bad behavior throughout the year. The answer appeared in the prayer book.[848]
אנו עזי פנים ואתה רחום
אנו קשי ערף ואתה ארך אפים
אנו מלאי עון ואתה מלא רחמים
אנו ימינו כצל עובר
ואתה הוא ושנותיך לא יתמו

We are hard faced, but You are merciful and compassionate;
We are stiff necked, but You are long in patience (long faced awaiting our return).
We are full of sin, but You are full of mercy
As for us, our days are a passing shadow; but your years are never ending.
(Yom Kippur liturgy)

I exclaimed, “How can we be so bad when you are so good!” At that moment, I chose to forgive these children in my mind. I then turned to Hashem and I said, “If I could forgive these children, and your mercy is so much greater than mine, surely you can see to forgive us all in the year to come.”

7.12 Conversations

7.12.1 Calming a person down

Listening to negative opinions about another is a mitzvah when the person is angry or upset and one knows that by listening, the speaker will feel better and will no longer feel the need to state negative opinions about the target person.[849] Nevertheless, one must be sure not to believe what one has heard.[850] This is the mitzvah of calming a person down.

7.12.2 Showing respect to everyone

There is a mitzvah to show respect for everyone.[851] One should try to avoid ending a conversation first, if the other person wishes to continue talking and there isn’t improper speech. In this way, one shows respect for the other person. One is commanded to spend time with one’s spouse. This means that it is a mitzvah to listen to him or her until s/he completes what s/he needs to say.

7.12.3 True Speech

Rabbi Nachman concisely sums up the subject:[852]

Text 7-15: Rabbi Nachman on True Speech
1. Not all words are considered speech. Words not heard or accepted are not called speech, as in (Psalms 19:4), “There is no speech and no words without their voice being heard.” Now the main reason words are accepted has to do with the good they contain, because everyone desires good. Therefore, when the words contain good, then speech is heard and accepted; but when the words have no good in them, they are not accepted. How do we create the good in the words? This is done by taking speech from daat (holy knowledge), then it will have good in it; but when speech is without daat, then it has no good, as in (Proverbs 19:2), “Also, for the soul to be without knowledge is not good.” The soul is speech, as it is written (Genesis 2:7), “Man became a living soul,” the Aramaic translation of which is a “a speaking spirit.”

2. Now, raising and enhancing daat is accomplished through praise of the tzaddikim. By praising and extolling the tzaddikim, daat is elevated, corresponding to (Deuteronomy 32:11), “Like a nesher (eagle) arousing its kein (nest).” Nishra is the spirit, the concept of tzaddik,...

“Footnote 8: praising...the tzaddikim, daat is elevated. By mentioning the praise and glory of the tzaddikim, a person invokes their merit and spiritual power. His daat is thereby elevated, so that his speech—now drawn from enhanced daat—contains the quality of good. His words are thus heard and accepted (Parparaot LeChokhmah). The Be’Ibey HaNachal explains that drawing speech from enhanced daat entails drawing close to the tzaddikim. By being close to them and personally witnessing their greatness, a person is consistently moved to praise the tzaddikim.”[853]

From other of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings it becomes clear that the quality of good in one’s speech can also be achieved by finding good in others and praising them. As Rebbe Nachman emphasized, all Jews are called tzaddikim.[854] (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov)

7.13 Quarrels

7.13.1 A Woman’s Nature

A woman’s nature is to plan. This is her Binah Yeserah (extra insight). Sometimes this can be disturbing to a man who has many things on his mind at once and does not want to be burdened with an extra plan. Nevertheless, he should realize that for the woman to plan itself is important and not necessarily its contents. If the day should arrive and circumstances necessitate changes, these are acceptable to the woman if she sees that the man values her, her plans, and her needs.

7.13.2 A World Full of Strife

By lessening quarrels in our families, we improve our community and we improve the world. The microcosm of our life affects the macrocosm of the world and living a Torah life improves the entire world. As Rabbi Nachman teaches:[855]

Text 7-16: Rabbi Nachman on Strife
The world is full of strife. There are wars between the great world powers. There are conflicts within different localities. There are feuds among families. There is discord between neighbors. There is friction within a household, between man and wife, between parents and children.

Life is short. People die every day. The day that has passed will never return, and death comes closer every day. But people still fight and never once remember their goal in life.

All strife is identical. The friction within a family is a counterpart of the wars between nations. Each person in a household is the counterpart of a world power, and their quarrels are the wars between those powers. The traits of each nation are also reflected in these individuals. Some nations are known for anger, others for bloodthirstiness. Each one has its particular trait. The counterparts of these traits are found in each household.

You may wish to live in peace. You have no desire for strife. Still you are forced into dispute and conflict. Nations are the same. A nation may desire peace and make many concessions to achieve it. But no matter how much it tries to remain neutral, it can still be caught up in war. Two opposing sides can demand its allegiance until it is drawn into war against its will. The same is true in a household.

Man is a miniature world. His essence contains the world and everything in it. A man and his family contain the nations of the world, including all their battles.

A man living alone can become insane. Within him are all the warring nations. His personality is that of the victorious nation. Each time a different nation is victorious, he must change completely, and this can drive him insane. He is alone and cannot express the war within him. But when one lives with others, these battles are expressed toward his family and friends.

There may be strife in the household of a tzaddik. This too is a war between nations. It is also the war between the twelve tribes, such as between Ephraim and Judah. When the messiah comes all wars will be abolished. The world will have eternal peace, as it is written (Isaiah 11:9) “They will neither hurt nor destroy ...”[856] (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov)

7.14 Fear

Apathy comes from depression. Apathy lessens the fear of G-d. What is the way out of apathy? We must focus on the fact that even Fear fears G-d as Rabbi Nachman teaches, “The quality of fear itself fears G-d.”[857]

The Baal Tshuvah seeks closeness to G-d by soaring above apathy, above fear, above love, to a place that only his soul can fathom. What is this place? It is none other then ‘Awe’ in the Presence of G-d. Kirkergaard spoke of this awe and is quoted on this subject in Abraham Joshua Heschel’s, “A Passion For Truth.”[858] Rudolf Otto also spent many years traveling and researching the universality of the subject recording his ideas in “The Idea of the Holy.” In apprehending the “Numinous” – G-d, Otto says:

Text 7-17: Rudolf Otto on the Numinous
We are dealing with something for which there is only one appropriate expression, mysterium tremendum. . . . The feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship. It may pass over into a more set and lasting attitude of the soul, continuing, as it were, thrillingly vibrant and resonant, until at last it dies away and the soul resumes its "profane," non-religious mood of everyday experience. . . . It has its crude, barbaric antecedents and early manifestations, and again it may be developed into something beautiful and pure and glorious. It may become the hushed, trembling, and speechless humility of the creature in the presence of—whom or what? In the presence of that which is a Mystery inexpressible and above all creatures.

The Encyclopedia Britannica describes the content of the divine experience:[859]
This content presents itself under two aspects: (1) that of "daunting awfulness and majesty," and (2) "as something uniquely attractive and fascinating." From the former comes the sense of the uncanny, of divine wrath and judgment; from the latter, the reassuring and heightening experiences of grace and divine love. This dual impact of awesome mystery and fascination was Otto's characteristic way of expressing man's encounter with the holy.

The fear and trembling, which accompanies the Baal Tshuvah is awe. This is the quality of the Fear that fears G-d.

7.15 Jealousy

Pray for the peace of Israel and let her invest in establishing a society without jealousy. For when King David and King Solomon had solidified the kingdom of Israel so began peace and a divided kingdom arose. Jealousy exists on the microcosm as well. The punishment for jealousy is rotting bones.[860] This is explained well by the Mei HaShiloach.[861]

Text 7-18: The Mei HaShiloach on Jealousy
“And I will take away the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh”—lev baasar (Yechezkel, 36:26), meaning, a heart which has no desire of [boser] his neighbor’s portion. For the sin of the generation of the flood was envy, where everyone had an evil eye on the portion of his neighbor. On this, God said to Noach, “and you shall swarm in the land,” for “swarming,” shratsu in Hebrew, indicates smallness, like the interpretation of Rashi z’l on th phrase, “swarming creature” (on Bereshit 1:20, where he says, “every living thing that is not high from the ground is called sherets”). So this is “swarm in the land,” meaning to make do with the small portion given to you, and not to be jealous of the portion of your neighbor. “And increase therein” means that from your own portion you will obtain greater delights each time, and in it you will be able to experience expansion.

When jealousy is for the sake of heaven, it is ok.[862] Rachel displayed her concern to build up the house of Israel by being willing to let her handmade procreate with her husband.

Text 7-19: Jealousy for the sake of heaven
Since it was written, before she went to Yaakov, “and Rachel was jealous,” therefore Yaakov became angry, because before she even came to him she needed to clarify her jealousy. Then when she said to Yaakov, “here is my handmaid before you...and I too will build [the future tribes] from her,” we see that her intentions were for the sake of Heaven because she included her handmaid in her household (that she did it for the children and not just for herself).

Adoption is noble based on this principle, for one is building up Israel while not building up oneself.

7.16 Judging People

We must strive to judge others favorably.[863] “One who judges others on the scale of merit will be judged by the Almighty on the scale of merit.”[864] “In righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”[865] The Guide to Midoth Improvement is a consolidation of the principles of Torah in this regard.[866]
Text 7-20: Guide to Midoth Improvement
  1. “Whoever judges another person favorably will himself will be, too, judged with sympathy.”
  2. “...and you, just as you judged me [i.e. in spite of apparent clear indications to the contrary] also shall the Almighty judge you in a positive light.”
  3. “Be aware of the fact that as long as:
  4. You are merciful [e.g. when judging others] — the Almighty will have mercy on you!”
  5. You are merciless... the Almighty will not have mercy on you!”
  6. If you see a person who stresses only the good points when discussing others, even the angels will defend him before the Almighty — but if a person criticizes others, the angels will also find fault with him!
  7. It is of particular importance to judge a person favorably if, in the past, he was good to you –– and that, whatever he did for you, was only for your good — because if you feel that he did so in his own interest, you show ingratitude!

7.17 Avoiding slander

One must not only avoid committing slander, but also hearing it. The penalty for listening is the same. The penalty for lashon harah, the bad tongue, is reincarnation as a dog. This is taught in the Zohar Hakodesh, the holy Zohar.[867]

7.18 Observing Principles Consistently

Observing ones beliefs consistently is a trait of hasidut – devotion. This is item seven from M’silat Yesharim. Hasidut also means saintliness or piety. Rabbi Menken of ‘Project Genesis’ shows how this trait is representative of Avraham but not of Lot:

Text 7-21: Rabbi Menken on Principles
Volume VI, Number 6 – Vayeira – Genesis 18:1 – 22:24

When a person adopts a set of principles and sticks by them, then other
people will respect and honor him or her for adhering to them. People will,
however grudgingly, understand that those principles guide the individual
to behave in a certain way. But if a person is careless with his or her
principles, then if one day he or she chooses to observe them in a
difficult situation, people will not say that this is a moral choice --
they might rather assume the worst!

"Let some water be brought, and wash your feet, and relax under the tree."

We see that Avraham wanted his visitors to wash their feet immediately,
before entering his house. Rashi explains that Avraham thought that the
three angels, who appeared to be ordinary men, were idolaters from the
region who worshipped the dust of their feet. He was therefore careful to
ensure that they did not bring the objects of their idolatry into his home.
Rashi goes on to say that Avraham's nephew Lot was not careful about this,
and therefore he brought two of these same guests into _his_ home before
having them wash their feet.

If we look, however, at the verse later where Lot brings in the guests
[19:2], Rashi provides a very different explanation. Although Avraham was
extremely careful that they do so, it is, of course, quite normal for
people to wipe the dust off their feet before going into someone's home. So
why, then, did Lot deviate from this norm? The answer is that the evil
people of S'dom did not allow people to shelter guests, leaving the guests
to sleep outside where the residents could rob them at will. Rashi tells us
that Lot was therefore concerned that if he would bring the guests in with
their feet already clean, the people of the city would accuse him of having
sheltered guests for several days. By having them go into his house with
the dust still on their feet, anyone would see that these people had just
come from the desert.

The Avnei Azel says that there is no contradiction between the two
explanations offered by Rashi. When discussing the verse regarding Avraham,
Rashi accentuates the difference between Avraham and Lot, but both reasons
are correct -- the first is a prerequisite for the second.

Had Lot been careful to keep any possible idolatry out of his home, then he
would have been obligated to think only about that, and not to worry about
what the people of S'dom might think. A person is supposed to be willing to
give up his life in order not to worship idols, and the Avnei Azel says
that were Lot careful about objects of idolatry, he should have been
willing to risk his life to keep them out of his home. Therefore we first
need to know that Lot was not concerned about this, before understanding
why he brought in his guests in a way which was unusual in any case.

The Avnei Azel goes on to point out that one could also say as follows:
that had the people of S'dom known that Lot, like his uncle Avraham, was
concerned about the prohibition of idolatry, then they would have concluded
that this was the reason the people were entering his house with clean
feet, rather than accusing Lot of sheltering guests for several days
without telling them. Given that Lot was worried about this accusation, it
is clear that the people of S'dom already recognized him as someone who had
never been careful about this at all.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Project Genesis

7.19 Truth

A man’s relationship with the Shechinah is from Emet – truth. A woman’s relationship with Kingship is dependent on Emunah – faith. The relationship between lovers reflects this relationship on high. A man must speak truthfully always to find the attribute of truth and union with his wife. A woman must have faith in G-d to develop faith in her husband. Today, a lack of truth loses trust and a lack of faith loses respect all too quickly in a relationship.

See the work of Elohim for Who will be able to fix
that which he has made crooked.
(Ecclesiastes 7:13)

The paradox of G-d is that while there is free will Hashem is omniscient. Most understand the necessity of free will to demonstrate self-improvement. Free will is a gift from G-d that the angels basking in G-d’s continual light cannot experience. Still, Hashem’s omniscience is also a gift. From omniscience, we know that the path Hashem has let us travel was done with His knowledge from beginning to end and that it is for the good. As a friend told me, “there is nothing bad that happens, but only sad.” [868] I will add that even the sad is for the good and that the vitality of life overcomes sadness and the song of love transcends all.

The Gemara Sotah teaches that one who tells the truth always can detect a lie from any person. The lie is to be found in the voice. “Words spoken in truth can be recognized as truth; otherwise they have a tainted sound.”[869]

7.20 Pride

There is only one word in Hebrew for pride and that is Gaiva. It is from the word for back Gav and refers to one greeting another with the attitude that one is more important than the other. In English, there are many words for pride: arrogance, gloating, egotism, self-importance, haughtiness, conceit, vanity, airs, and narcissism. Pride is necessary for kingship and was missing in the House of Israel, until Ruth brought it with Naomi.[870]

7.21 Humility

One must obtain the level of humility before being able to experience authentic kabbalah. And what is humility? This is none other then to be stoic, to be indifferent to one who complements as one who insults.[871] Bittul – nullify means humility in Hebrew. The verb l’vatel is to lesson the importance of something. Humility creates an opening for G-d in ones heart. Pride fills the opening in place of G-d, has v’shalom. Often times, very wealthy people have a problem with faith. This is because they think they can do everything themselves with their own wealth and have not left an opening for G-d in their hearts. When bad things happen to people, G-d is giving us a chance to refocus our priorities, understand better the plight of each other, and return to Him with a complete heart.

Nevertheless, because G-d saw that the Jewish people were deficient in conceit, He made them his chosen people. Our pride is in the Torah, pursuing Truth and the Will of G-d.

7.22 Anxiety

Text 7-22: Anxiety-free Motto
“Hey, just relax. God is in control.”

I saw this motto on a bumper stick with one penguin talking to another who had just been half swallowed by a giant fish![872],[873]

Text 7-23: Anxiety-free living.

There are a lot of people who are stressing out because of the pressures of life, because of temptations that are assailing them, all kinds of things. And those of us who have walked with God a little longer, we should be able to take them under our wing and say, “Hey, just relax. God is in control. We just need to make our requests known to God. Let’s pray about it and not worry about it.”

The weekly Shabbat is another answer to anxiety. The prohibitions on the Shabbat are designed to liberate one from all forces of anxiety that are all forms of work, i.e. turning on light switches, cooking, driving, writing, typing etc. On Shabbat, we will find the time to attend a service, read a book, take a nap, dream a dream.

7.23 Toppers

Often when people listen, they are not hearing from the position of the speaking person, but instead interested in more of their own next comment to top what they just heard. On a slightly lower level is to hear everything in a manner to apply ideas to ones own interpretation. One often hears conversations where each person is trying to out top what the last person said.[874]

7.24 Laughter

Recent studies indicate that laughter is beneficial for dilating blood vessels through the release of nitric oxide, which also reduces platelet aggregation. Laughter also reduces stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, which reduces steroid obesity. Also laughing releases endorphins, which relieves pain. Finally laughter boosts the number of antibodies and improves the immune system, possibly related to the cortisol reduction.[875]

Nevertheless, there is a Perkei Avos that downplays levity as leading to lewdness and other vice. The health benefit of laughter, which may save ones life, brings this oral law advice into question.

7.24.1 Comedy

Hebrew Tahes means to order or press out as with a mold. This is also an attribute of G-d who ordered and fashioned the world. L’havdil, Yiddish Tuches is the butt. Yiddish to English Tushi is the whole bottom.

My baby hates having his nose wiped. The other day after doing this he grabbed a hold of my nostril and started yanking it upward. I guess this is how he feels.

How do babies know to blow their nose. It is because they can blow bubbles that they are encouraged.

My fiancé examines my house before our marriage. She finds one room that is filled with shoes. She asks what is that? I tell her that is the shoe room, where the shoes live. She tells me she is reminded of the piles of empty shoes from the Holocaust.

A friend at work is looking for a Kleenex. I tell him no good contributing to the landfills. Instead why don’t you just suck it in and swallow it.

Baby dials 911 on the phone accidentally and is screaming on the pick up. Cops come by; see marks on baby’s face where he scratched himself.

7.25 Loyalty

Important to the well-being of organizations, this often overlooked quality is important today.[876]

[809] Sept. 6, 1996. At a visit to a diner, I noticed a homeless person who had come in off the street and was sitting at the counter near me. He ordered a hamburger making sure the waitress understood that he did not want any condiments. When he received his bill, I saw him check the price right away. As I was leaving I debated offering him money to pay for his lunch considering that he might be embarrassed. Then I placed myself in his position. Some rabbis would travel incognito as beggars to understand the plight of others better. I recalled my backpack trips through Europe where I would stop at a diner for rest as well as food. I paid the man’s lunch and he was grateful.
[810] Lessons from our Teeth, Moshe Goldberger, Staten Island, NY, quoting Rav Avigdor Miller, p. 26.
[811] Claudette Howerton made this suggestion August 8th, 1999 to the group on behalf of Lee while not inferring it be for any particular person. This was at Ira’s yearly summer get together in the San Jose foothills at 4111 Higuerra.
[812] Rabbi Aryeh Rosenfield, Seven Beggers (2nd & 3rd Day), Audio lecture,
[813] By the fear of the Almighty, or by His love.
[814] Sparks of Mussar, page 153.
[815] Kindness.
[816] Likutey Moharan, Volume IV, #31:1, page 331.
[817] Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld, quoted in Likutey Moharan, Vol. IV, #31:2, note 15, page 333.
[818] Growth Through Torah, Pliskin, Portion Reah, subject Joy.
[819] Email 9/11/2001, not sure of the original source.
[820] See Section 31.27.1 Quotes see quote 40
[821] Star Trek, The Klingon Gambit, Robert E. Vardeman, p.140
[822] Genesis 49:7 as brought forth by Rabbi Mordechai Katz, Joshua, page 157.
[823] Rashi, Parshas Vayechi as brought forth by Rabbi Mordechai Katz, Joshua, page 158.
[824] It’s all a GIFT, Miriam Adahan.
[825] See Rabban’s letter to his son: 4.6.1 Iggeres Haramban p.315
[826] Pliskin. Eliahu Lopin discusses this in Lev Eliahu as well.
[827] Orchos Tzaddikim, edited by Rabbi Gavriel Zaloshinsky, trans. Rabbi Shraga Silverstein, Feldheim, pages 244-245.
[828] Orchos Tzaddikim, pages 246-247.
[829] Paraphrased from Rabbi Doctor Joseph H. Gelberman, Kabbalah Instruction, San Francisco Yoga Center, 5/28/1997.
[830] Yoav Pilnick, 1/20/02.
[831] Kings 2:13-18
[832] Proverbs 15:1
[833] A Letter for the Ages, Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feur, p.29
[834] Sherrie B. Miller is a Jewish matchmaker on SawYouAtSinai and a dating coach in Jerusalem. She received her counseling degree from the Michlala in Jerusalem and an M.A. in Jewish Education from Touro College. Sherrie is certified by Midreshet Emunah and is accredited by the Rabbanut of Israel, to be a pre-marital couple’s counselor and Kallah teacher.
[835] M’silat Yesharim, Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto, translated by Mordechai Kaplan trans. page 87.
[836] Kipper, atonement is literally payment.
[837] Samuel 2:16:10, Sef. Chas. 39; Sef. Hal. 2:65
[838] Shabbat 88b
[839] Judges 5:31
[840] Guide to Midoth Improvement, Naftali Hoffner, Feldheim, pp 39-40.
[841] Rabbi Aryeh Rosenfeld, Makos 2 lecture,,
[842] Chellis’ ‘therapy’ bird.
[843] The Light of the Eyes, Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, trans. Arthur Green, pp. 135-137
[844] M’silat Yesharim, Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto, Chapter 11, Mordechai Kaplan trans. page 113.
[845] Korah who was a Levite already had the privilege of ministering in all of G-d’s services.
[846] “Hero with a Thousand Faces”
[847] See index entry ‘image of G-d’ for cross references.
[848] Day of Atonement, Hebrew Publishing Company, page 93.
[849] The female nature cleanses itself in this manner. It is a mitzvah for a husband to help his wife by listening to her, though a husband should not accept ideas defaming others. A man should be aware that someone who offended one’s wife one day is as likely to be the best friend of one’s wife the next day.
[850] Chofetz Chaim, Guard Your Tongue, Ch. 6:9 – Calming down the speaker, page 87.
[851] The Jewish Marriage, Rabbi Tsvi Dov Travis, page 206.
[852] Likutey Moharan Vol. IV # 29:1,2 pp. 203-205
[853] Ibid
[854] Ibid
[855] Gems of Rabbi Nachman, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, pages 66- 68.
[856] Ibid
[857] Likutey Moharan #148, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Volume 10, page 215.
[858] A Passion For Truth, Abraham Joshua Heschel.
[859] Mysterium tremendum
[860] Gemara Tractate Yona
[861] Living Waters, The Mei HaShiloach, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef of Isbitza, trans. and edited by Betsalel Philip Edwards, p.31
[862] Ibid. p.70
[863] Orchos Tzaddikim, Feldheim, page 453.
[864] Shabbas 127b
[865] Vayikra 19:15
[866] Guide to Midoth Improvement, Naftali Hoffner, 1991, p.14.
[867] Rabbi Aryeh Rosenfield lecture, Makos 2, 1:20:30 hr:mm:ss,
[868] David Lewis quoting Mannis Friedman, April 28, 2001
[869] Rabbi Aryeh Rosenfeld, Gemara Shir Sotah, Track 3.
[870] See Pride was not found in Israel before Ruth.
[871] Rabbi Isaac of Acco, Meir Eynayim – Light of the Eyes, Meditation and Kabbalah, page 143.
[873] Similar to the Jewish principle ‘to cast or throw ones burden to or on Hashem’—See the end of 13.8.3: Psalms – Pseukei D’Zimra – Yetzirah – World of Formation Footnote 48.
[874] Christine, SLC Institute student.
[876] See p.315

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