A Helping Hand from the Tzaddikim
Practically, Rabbenu hints in this story that the Cripple represents the souls of Am Yisrael during this generation, the generation of the ‘Tikkun (rectification) of the Legs’. The deeper meaning behind this is that we’re very confused and that we’re very mixed up with this world and all its madness, and with the desires and feelings that are connected to this world, which really just confuse us tremendously.
So much so, that it becomes very difficult for a person to find his true path, in terms of how to achieve his spiritual rectification, and how to make teshuva and return to Hashem.
Tzaddikim help us to find the path back to Hashem
[In the story] the Cripple hires a wagon, a trustworthy assistant, and a wagon-driver. The assistant alludes to the Tzaddikim who come and help us, practically, to find the path that will lead us back to making teshuva. On many different occasions in the Rebbe Nachman’s stories, Rabbenu and Rav Natan remind us that the ikker (main focus) of the ‘push’ we get to make teshuva comes from the strength of the Tzaddikim.
The Baal Shem Tov and his students set up almost the whole path and the whole ‘push’ for us to make teshuva around the idea of a Tzaddik who would guide us, advise us and light up the way.
The idea of a ‘Tzaddik’ started long before chassidut
We need to know that the whole concept of their being a Tzaddik who helps the souls of Am Yisrael didn’t start with chassidut, but actually began long before. The holy Zohar and the holy Arizal wrote about this at length, and it really began a long time ago. There are some very big, special souls whose whole purpose is solely to help Am Yisrael to make teshuva, and get closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
A hint to this can be found in the parsha that we read last week (Parshat Mikeitz). Yehuda asked Yaakov to permit Binyamin to come down with him to Egypt. Yaakov was scared to let Binyamin go, so Yehuda said to him:
“I will stand as the guarantor for him; from my hand you can request him” – I’m guaranteeing his safety.
Rav Natan writes in Likutey Halachot that this is what the Tzaddik tells Hashem: I will stand as the guarantor for the souls of Am Yisrael, from my hands you can request them. The Tzaddik comes down to this world in order to help us find our true path. This has always been how it is, inasmuch as this concept is rooted in a very deep, internal place that began with the sin of Adam HaRishon.
All the souls were included in the sin of Adam HaRishon
The holy Zohar and the Arizal explain that all the souls were included in the sin of Adam HaRishon, and that because of this sin, the majority of souls fell into somewhere called ‘the place of the klipot (forces of evil)’. Once such a big fall has happened, a person can’t return to himself under his own steam. He can’t climb out by himself, he needs someone else to come along and offer him a hand up, so he can get out of these places.
And this process began with the big Tzaddikim such as Avraham, Yitzhak, Yaakov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon and David – these were the first Tzaddikim who came to help the souls of Am Yisrael to make teshuva and to get closer to Hashem. From the time of Adam HaRishon’s sin, every generation has had this aspect of a tzaddik who comes to help the souls of Israel.
The BESHT, Rabbenu, and many other Tzaddikim started to reveal to us that because in our time we have fallen into the aspect called pgam hareglin (the blemish of the legs) it’s so very hard for us to find the truth, and to find our true path, unless we are given some outside help.
The battle between our hearts and our minds
We need the Tzaddikim to help us. While it’s true that each person can still know and find the truth, there’s a very big rule associated with this, that almost all the Torah and all the world stands on, and that’s the fight that occurs within each one of us between our heart and our mind. Or, to put this another way, the contrast between the world of intellect, and the world of feeling.
The Baal HaTanya wrote: The mind was only created with its rules and with its nature in order to govern the heart. We experience life via our hearts. That’s the place where we feel enjoyment, happiness and bliss – in a sense, these are the heart’s accomplishments. But the world of feeling doesn’t know how to guide us on the right path, because sometimes we feel we want one thing, and then we want something else. One time we’re happy, and then we feel sad, and that’s why the heart needs the mind to guide it.
The yetzer hara (evil inclination) also maintains its grip on us by ruling over our feelings, in order to prevent our intellect from guiding our heart.
We all know that anger is bad…
For example, the midda (characteristic) of anger is really not good. A person can hear that message in a few different shiurim, and can read about it in a few different books – baruch Hashem, he’s a kosher Jew, and he could already give a class on how bad anger is to a thousand people! He could explain to them that when a person gets angry, all different types of Gehinnom (purgatory) rule over him, and how anger is such a bad, destructive character trait. He could give a shiur about the subject for at least an hour.
Nevertheless, the minute he gets home, someone takes a potshot at him. There are potshots that don’t hurt so much, and then there are bulls’ eyes that rip through all our defenses and hit the most tender spot in our hearts. At that moment, the person says: Watch out! I could tear the whole house down in a second!
Suddenly, he feels like he needs a lot of siyatta dishmaya (heavenly help) to avoid throwing some pans around, or breaking plates – and this is after he gave a shiur to a thousand people about just how bad anger actually is! How can this be?
The mind knows the truth
This occurs because of the ongoing war between the heart and the mind. The mind knows – or at least, can know – the truth, but it still takes a very long time for the mind to be able to guide the heart. It can take us three days to discover the truth and then another seven years before we’re able to convince the heart to accept it.
Our hearts are so very against it, and this is all a great wonder. If we look at the strength that exists in our hearts, we’ll see that it’s so very powerful. A person can tell themselves a thousand times over that: ‘I don’t want to get angry, I don’t want to be so judgmental…’ – and he really means it and he really wants it. But then something small suddenly happens, and the heart just stops listening to all that, and he gets angry, judgmental, and all the rest of it.
The more sick a person is, the bigger the doctor they need
The whole matter of ‘the legs’ is already so geared to the feelings and desires of the heart that the mind can’t rule over it, anymore. The heart wants what it wants, and it’s not even asking the mind what to do. This is the deeper reason why Rabbenu revealed to us that we need a very, very big Tzaddik who knows how to guide a heart like this, that is so stuck in the confusions of this world and so overwhelmed by feelings and desires.
In Lesson 30 [of Likutey Moharan], Rabbenu tells us: The more sick a person is, the greater the doctor they need. The really sick man is that person who’s the most stuck in the lusts of this world, and in his feelings.
To be continued…
Translated from the Ohr HaDaat newsletter, #108