Sunday, 18 May 2008

Iyar 13 - Know that Everything Above is from You


"At Mincha (today) we say Tachanun"

The above teaching relates to the joyous day of tomorrow - Iyar 14 - Pesach Sheni. While tomorrow is a joyous day and therefore we do not recite Tachanun, nevertheless we still do say Tachanun at Mincha today. Usually the custom is not to say Tachanun on the day preceding a day that does not require Tachanun to be said. In our case however, we still do recite Tachanun at Mincha today.

"The Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liady - 1745-1812) - in those years when he would say short discourses, said: 'Know what is above you (as is traditionally translated comes to teach that a person should have fear of sin in being aware that Someone is watching! In our case however, the Alter Rebbe explained it differently) - Know that what is above is from you (the Hebrew word 'Mimcha' can be translated either as 'above you' or 'is from you.'). Know, that whatever is above - the Partzufim and the Supernal Sefirot - everything is from you. This is all dependent on the service of man.'"

The original teaching in Pirkei Avos teaches us that we are required to be aware of the Creator of the world. We should go about our daily activities being aware that G-d is above us, aware of our actions and constantly watching us, judging us and also taking care of us in whatever we need.

While this could have negative connotations in our thinking of G-d as a "hating" and "vengeful" G-d (G-d forbid!), ready to strike us down with a bolt of lightning, should we do anything wrong, it should rather have the positive connotation of making us aware of our duty to do what is right in the world - because this is ultimately what G-d really wants from us. Indeed, the fact that for the most part (in a revealed manner), our lives are constantly filled with miracles in everything from the ways our bodies work, to the ways in which sustenance comes to us, to the miracles of nature, these things should be large enough signs that in fact G-d is running the world for our good - and not to take harsh judgmental action against us. Nevertheless it is not for us to think that G-d will simply give into our limited ways of thinking, and thereby simply bestow upon us constant revealed good, no matter what we do. Rather, it is up to us to be aware that we are required to work on ourselves, to do good for ourselves and others - and for G-d Himself. "Know what is above you" - G-d... watching and being aware of every single thing we think, speak and do.

The Alter Rebbe however explained the Hebrew translation differently. "Know what is above is FROM you." Everything that happens, whether to ourselves or the world in general is because of our actions (our speech and our thoughts!) In Kabbalah we call this an "Awakening from Below". The "Awakening from Below" causes an "Awakening from Above!" Once we behave in a certain way, it causes an action with the exact same power to be brought down below.

Much like the rain we receive coming from the clouds, is only actually the waters from the ground that have evaporated and have risen into the heavens - in order to bestow blessing upon us, so too our "awakenings from below" cause our efforts to "evaporate" upwards, ultimately causing a measure for measure bestowal of goodness into this world in accordance with our deeds (speech and thought!)

In fact, the very way in which the Kabbalistic universes function, is literally in accordance with everything we do. When we recite a blessing on food before eating, we cause an elevation of our thoughts and speech, which in turn causes a bestowal of blessing into the food which then blesses our bodies and souls with the necessary nutrients to think straight and behave correctly! When we put on Tefillin, observe the Shabbat day, follow the laws of Family Purity etc., we awaken "things" below, which in turn causes awakenings above, and so those "things" that we see coming about in this world are actually coming about from our efforts in this lower world.

Consider your next thought, word, or action, and imagine the power of it as it evaporates above, and the blessing that will come through the goodness in the thoughts, words, or actions that you are doing. If of course those thoughts, words or actions are not in accordance with Torah, imagine well what possible effects these could have. Then, watch life happen and see the effects of your efforts. It is not for nothing that things are happening in the ways they are. It is you who are making them flow in the exact ways that are currently happening!

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