SPARKS OF INSIGHT
1. Praising Your Teacher
When as a young man, Rabbi Yitzhak Eizik (later the Rebbe of Komarna) heard Torah secrets from his uncle and spiritual master, Rebbe Tzvi Hirsh of Ziditchov, or when his uncle allowed him to peruse manuscripts of his Torah insights, Rabbi Yitzhak Eizik greatly praised his uncle, to expand his mind, to encourage him to pour out the full fountain of his influence. (Shalshelet HaKodesh Komarna, p.375)
The Rabbis forbid flattery but make an exception that a student is allowed to flatter his teacher to encourage his teacher to teach him more. The hasidic rebbes say that when a student is receptive, the teacher’s fountain flows more strongly. Why? Because a spiritual teacher’s humility makes him think: “What do I have to teach?” The student’s receptivity says: “You have much to teach me!”
2. Tasting the World to Come
I’m always inspired by descriptions of the awesome spiritual levels attained by our tzaddikim. The following is about Rebbe Yitzhak Eizik of Komarna.
He studied Torah and did mitzvot day and night and tasted in them the taste of the World to Come. He paid no attention to those who persecuted him out of jealousy and hatred; he did not even notice their existence. In fact, he occasionally was grateful to them because in some measure they were responsible for his expanded consciousness as he engaged in a purer and more intense divine service [required to forget them] and his whole being was filled with eternal joy, like a wretched beggar sitting in a garbage heap who has just been told that he has been made king over a rich land with great treasuries of silver and gold. (Shalshelet HaKodesh Komarna, p.375)
3. The Promise
A man once came and wept before Rebbe Eleazar Tzvi of Komarna, telling him of all the troubles he was experiencing. The rebbe took his hand and said to him, "Go home to peace and to life. I promise you that God will help you and you'll be saved from all your troubles!" After the man left, one of the rebbe's hasidim asked, "Rebbe, how can you promise him that?" The rebbe replied, "It is like the parable of a king who greatly loved his retainers, and was pained by the sufferings and troubles they were undergoing. So he ordered that it be proclaimed that whoever was suffering and oppressed should turn to him and they would be saved. To this end he also sent out emissaries throughout the kingdom, and they were given permission to promise in the name of the king. I'm one of those emissaries."
Aren’t some of us today emissaries of promise? Search your heart, in humility, not arrogance.
4. Picturing Abraham
When Rabbi Shraga Feivel of Gritza wanted to picture to himself how our father Abraham looked, he called up the image of his rebbe, the Vorker Rebbe. (Toldot HaYismach Yisrael, p.44) Why did he want to picture how Abraham looked? To make the Torah stories more real to himself. We can use the same technique.
5. A Segula to Remember
A hasid asked Rebbe Yerahmiel Yisrael Yitzhak of Alexander for a segula (mystically potent practice) to help him remember what he studied. The rebbe replied that he should wash his spine a number of times every day in cold water. Another hasid standing nearby told the rebbe that he too needed a segula to remember; should he do the same thing? The rebbe replied, “You should fulfill the verse [Numbers 15:39], ‘You shall not follow your heart and your eyes, after which you go whoring’; then you’ll merit the continuation of the verse, ‘that you remember.’” (Toldot HaYismach Yisrael, vol.1, p.187) Each person’s path is different. We should not follow our eyes and whore after another person’s path; we should not copy others.
6. To Find Yourself
Rebbe Yerahmiel Yisrael Yitzhak of Alexander once saw his hasid, the gaon, Rabbi Dovberish Rosenberg, chief of the religious court of Strikov, sitting with his head bent down toward the ground, wrapped up in deep thought. “Berish!” called out the rebbe, “Why are you looking for yourself so low, on the floor? Is it surprising that you won’t find yourself there? If you lift your eyes up a little bit, above, then you’ll find yourself!” (Toldot HaYismach Yisrael, vol.2, p.482)
7. Where Can We Find Someone with Such Eyes?
The Alexanderer Rebbe once said, “When someone comes to me, I can see into his inner essence, but it’s possible that at that very moment he changes and decides to improve his ways, so that when I give him a second glance, he’s already totally different.” (Toldot HaYismach Yisrael, vol.2, p.421)
8. Praying to Yourself
The Rabbis say in the Talmud that God prays. What does He pray? "May My attribute of mercy overcome My attribute of anger so that I'll have compassion on My children." -- Who is God praying to? Himself. Many of our fellow Jews have a hard time with the idea of praying. Perhaps it would be an opening of sorts for some of them to think of God as a model of praying to yourself: You pray, "May my higher self (divine soul) overcome my lower self (ego), so that I can have compassion on the whole world."
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