False prophets and the song of Pesach
Translated and adapted from a shiur given by Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita, on Nisan 17th, 5747, that first appeared in Hithadshut #14.
“He saw when they were in distress when He heard their song” (Tehillim 106:44)
The Chatam Sofer says, that as soon as people start to sing, even before they actually pray, Hashem already answers all their requests. [The Chatam Sofer] says this about Pesach: “To hear the song and the prayer.”
He brings the Rashi on Brachot, [which says that] the very moment a person just begins to sing, all of his prayers are already accepted. He only started doing the morning zemirot (songs), “I will thank Hashem”, and already all of his requests are accepted.
The moment you start to sing to Hashem, your requests are granted
So when he starts to pray, this is even more, this is for his future generations, his descendants, and he’s sweetening the decrees and harsh hanging over the nation of Israel, these are even more wondrous things.
But says the Chatam Sofer, even the moment he starts the morning shira (song), Hashem has already fulfilled all of his requests. “He saw when they were in distress when He heard their song” – and this occurred only from hearing their voices, without any words being said.
He just started to sing, and Hashem already fulfilled all of his requests.
He gave him everything he wants already! He just starts to sing after he’s been learning gemara for eight hours (and after that, he’s got another eight hours for hitbodedut and for prayers, and to learn the books of Rabbenu). And then he’s got eight hours to sleep, if he wants to, and to eat.
If a person doesn’t say a word, and he doesn’t spend a moment ‘relaxing’, and he doesn’t waste a single minute, he’s got eight hours where he can eat and sleep. And then he has eight hours where he can learn gemara, and eight hours for hitbodedut, prayers and Rabbenu’s books. Hashem organized the day, in order that a person can grasp an infinite amount of things.
Gemara opens up your intellect
And when he merits to study gemara, at that moment all the mochin (intellects / brains) open up for him, all the intelligence opens up, and all the pipes of shefa (plentiful) daat (spiritual knowledge) and understanding – everything opens for him.
So the moment he just starts to sing some niggun (melody), Hashem already saves him, and saves all those who are around him, who he’s praying for, in his merit.
And this is: “He saw when they were in distress when He heard their song” (Likutey Moharan 1:42). By way of hearing our voice, Hashem sees everything that is distressing us, and which idolatry is oppressing us…
And this ‘voice’ only comes from learning Torah. If a person doesn’t learn Torah, he simply doesn’t have a voice. He can’t sing, he can’t sing melodies, his voice is always hoarse and weak. The Rebbe says, the voice only comes from speaking out Torah.
The eight types of intellect
This is what Rav Natan explains in Likutey Halachot (Pikadon, 4:8), that we have eight types of mochin (intellects / brains), and that each of us is obligated to progress through all eight types of these intellects. Every one of them…
[The Rav now lists a number of this kabbalistic mochins including “Gadlut of Ima, Gadlut of Abba” etc] and all different types of intellects.
And in relation to this, a person is given an awesome test, inasmuch as they suddenly take his mochin (intellect, wisdom) away. They want to see how he’s going to serve Hashem without any understanding. If you’re serving Hashem while you have some brains, that’s not a big deal.
Serving Hashem l’shem shemayim
When you have a big brain, you understand things, you have enthusiasm – you’re going to ‘sing’ beautifully. Suddenly, you get to a moment of yeoush (despair), a moment of depression, and your brain stops working. They took your intelligence away, and they want to see how you’re going to serve Hashem if it’s only l’shem shemayim, for its own sake.
Now, you’re going to do hitbodedut only l’shem shemayim! You’re going to get up for the vatikin (dawn) minyan only for the sake of heaven! And not because it’s an ‘experience’, or because it’s fabulous. You’re going out to the field, what fun, how beautiful it all is, what a gorgeous sky, what a beautiful wilderness, what an amazing panorama…
No! This time, you have absolutely no strength, you have nothing. You’re only going out to the field because God requires you to do that. This is true hitbodedut, only because Hashem wants it.
It’s like what occurred with the Seder night of the student of the Chozeh of Lublin. [Click HERE to read the full story.]
…So a person has to pass through all the different types of mochin. In Likutey Halachot (Pikadon 4:8) the Rebbe explains that we have eight types of intellect, and in five days we need to receive seven types of intellect. In five days [between Seder Night and the 7th day of Pesach] we need to accept seven different types of mochin.
[The Rav goes on to explain in more detail how each of the different intellects will be received on each day of Pesach.]
Small-minded people can easily fall prey to ‘Bilaam’
A person needs to go through every type of mochin. When a person stays ‘small minded’, he is in grave danger that every ‘Bilaam’ will come and start influencing him.
The Rebbe says in Torah 47 that the moment a person begins to look for ‘interpretations’, immediately some ‘Bilaam’ shows up, and everyone runs to this ‘Bilaam’, everyone rushes to come and hear what he has to say.
He says things in a nicer way, he’s a much more engaging speaker – he’s got more to offer than Moshe Rabbenu. “He knows the higher wisdoms”. In some aspects, he was even greater than Moshe Rabbenu. It’s written in the holy books: “And no-one else arose in Israel like Moshe” – but amongst the nations of the world, yes, someone did. Bilaam was greater than Moshe.
[It was said of him] gilui eynayim, a man with uncovered eyes. He could see the Shechina with uncovered eyes…Hashem did this on purpose. He gave the sitra achra (dark side forces) greater [spiritual] levels than he gave to the Tzaddikim, in order for them to be able to lead people astray.
Don’t believe the false prophets!
The Gemara in Sanhedrin says: Even if [false prophets] make the sun and moon stand still in the firmament [don’t believe them]. Such great powers were given to the sitra achra that the could make the sun stand still, like Moshe Rabbenu, like Yehoshua Bin Nun.
What’s going to be, if you come across some sorcerer and he says: “You want to see that I’m telling you the truth? See, now the sun is standing still [in the sky]! Look at the clock, see, it’s not moving. It hasn’t moved for an hour!”
Are you going to start believing in him?
But we have the Torah! After Moshe Rabbenu brought the Torah down, we could also stop the sun, and halt the moon. We have the words of our Tzaddikim. Nothing in the world could take us away from the words of the Tzaddikim… He made the sun and moon stand still? We’re really not even interested.
The forces of idolatry have so much power
The Gemara tells us: [The Tanna] Rabbi Yossi HaGalili said: The Torah reaches to the end of the daat (spiritual knowledge) of the star worshipers, and so the Torah was given to rule over them, so that even if they make the sun stand still…” etc.
The forces of idol worship, the magicians and the sorcerers, they have so much power!
They can even get the sun to stand still in the middle of the sky. “Even if he halts the sun in the middle of the firmament, don’t listen to him.”
Even if some non-Jew comes and makes the sun stand still in the heavens for an hour, know, this means nothing. After we received the words of the Tzaddikim, nothing else in the world counts. If Korach comes and starts screaming about Moshe Rabbenu’s mezuzah – what difference does it make, that he’s screaming about the mezuzah?! Moshe said ‘have a mezuzah’, so, we have a mezuzah!
[Korach said] There will be kushiot (halachic questions) why we should have a mezuzah, and it’s true that if we are living amongst gentiles, you won’t even see the mezuzah, it’s put inside the wall and they put cement over it! You can’t even see it! And your house is full of holy books [so why do you even need it]?!
The mezuzah’s light
But a person who merits, and who believes in Moshe Rabbenu, he’ll such an awesome light from that mezuzah, indescribable light comes out of the mezuzah, that he’ll never see reflecting off any holy book in the whole world. Even if there’s a million books in the house, the light comes out from the mezuzah, and not from the holy books.
Whoever merits, and who submits himself to Moshe Rabbenu, he will see the light coming off of the mezuzah, so he has no difficulties when Korach starts saying: “What’s all this about a mezuzah? It’s just going to be covered up with cement! What’s the point of doing it?”
I have a cupboard that contains 1,000 holy books, and even if you bring a Sefer Torah, it’s still not going to help you. Even though a Sefer Torah is greater than a mezuzah, if you stick a Sefer Torah up on the wall, it’s not going to help you. Dafka, you need to have a mezuzah.
Bilaam ‘explains’ everything backwards
So Rabbenu explains here that the very moment you start seeking explanations, some Bilaam immediately stands up, and starts telling you everything backwards. He’ll say: “That’s not important! Who told you that it’s forbidden to steal?! You don’t need to get up for Chatzot.”
A person needs to be strong, strong and unswerving. This is what happened to all the nations of the world, because all of the nations of the world were close to making teshuva [after witnessing the 10 plagues and the splitting of the seas]. They wanted to make teshuva, already. They heard the 10 commandments in 70 tongues, in all the languages of the world, and they were already ready to make teshuva.
They heard “Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not murder.” A man steals, he broke into a bank somewhere, suddenly he hears: “Thou shalt not steal!” All the walls are shaking, he hears it in English, in French, all of the languages. The thieves got scared and went to talk to their sorcerers.
They asked them: “What’s going on here? It’s written: ‘And you will live by them’, and not you shall die by them. Is this the end of the world? Is Hashem going to bring another flood to the world? How are we going to survive? ‘And you will live by them’ and not die by them, but if we don’t steal, how are we going to live? This one steals things, that one kills people, each one has their own way of making parnassa. Is Hashem taking our parnassa away?”
They asked the sorcerers what to do
They went to the sorcerers and the magicians to ask them what they should do. Every nation of the world heard “Thou shalt not steal” in 70 languages. He suddenly got scared that if he steals, some stone from the ceiling is suddenly going to fall on him. So what did all these sorcerers and magicians do?
All of them knew how to combine names, so they immediately flew over to Bilaam in a second.
They get to Bilaam, and Bilaam was the biggest sorcerer of all. They said to him: “What’s going on here? Hashem said ‘don’t steal, don’t murder’, what’s going to be with our parnassa?’ Bilaam said to them: “Hashem will give to His people, He will bless His nation with peace. This was just for the Jews, this wasn’t for you.”
They said: “If so, why was it in 70 different languages?” Bilaam replied: “Moshe Rabbenu arranged things like that to give himself some publicity. This isn’t for you. You can carry on stealing, and carry on murdering.”
Are you going to take responsibility?
They said to Bilaam: “And what will happen if we steal something and then die [as a result]? Or we kill someone and die? You’re telling us to go and steal and to go and murder, but we heard ‘Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not murder…’ And if we steal and murder and then that same second we die, because some stone from the ceiling will fall on us and kill us? Are you taking the responsibility for our lives?”
He said: “Yes, gentlemen, I’m taking responsibility. I’m responsible for all of you, believe me, I’m a true prophet. I’m telling you only the pure, unvarnished truth. You can steal, you can murder, and nothing is going to happen to you. You’ll see, if you have one day stealing and murdering and nothing happens, then you’ll believe me.
“Bilaam is a true prophet!”
“Start tomorrow and see if anyone dies. I’m prepared to be killed in their place, if so. You can kill me.” So the next day they went to rob someone, they went to mug someone, and they saw it worked a treat. They said: “Bilaam is a true prophet! We see that whatever he sees is the pure, unvarnished truth!”
A person can spend his whole life following this sort of ‘pure, unvarnished truth’. He’s following the ‘highest truth’, he’s maintaining all his foolish ways and yet he’s successful! He doesn’t wake up for Chatzot, everything is still great. He doesn’t get up for the vatikin minyan, and everything’s still great. Everything’s wonderful!
He found himself a ‘Bilaam’ to encourage him to not wake up for Chatzot, and who encourages him to not do hitbodedut, and who encourages him not to pray with any real kavana (intention), and who strengthens him to not follow a single piece of Rebbe Nachman’s advice.
He’s found his ‘Bilaam’ to encourage him, and nothing bad happened! He still got married, he’s still successful, he still has parnassa, he still has a nice detached house, everything is great! He found a ‘true prophet’.
God forbid, a person can search for the ‘pure, unvarnished truth’, and wind up with some ‘Bilaam’ who’ll encourage him and strengthen him, and make him feel happy about what he’s doing. He doesn’t want him to fall into yeoush (despair), God forbid, he doesn’t want him to get depressed. Sadness is the worst thing of all. Quite the opposite: He should make himself happy! He should enjoy his life a little!
The nations’ big mistake
But what was their mistake? Why were these nations of the world guilty, in raising up a Bilaam to cause them to stumble? They innocently wanted to stop stealing, already, they wanted to stop killing.
Their error was in the way they used the [Divine] name, and in the way they used their magic, that let them fly in from every corner of the world, from England and from France. They flew in to see Bilaam the rasha (evildoer) in Babylon from every corner of the world. With that same name, they could have flown over to see Moshe Rabbenu! With that exact same name!
You heard ‘don’t steal, don’t murder’, and then Bilaam says: “Moshe Rabbenu did all that.” If Moshe is behind it, so let’s fly to Moshe! Let’s go and ask Moshe what’s going on here! You’re telling us [Bilaam] that it’s OK to steal, and it’s ok to murder?! What are you saying? You’re encouraging us not to wake up for Chatzot? And not to do hitbodedut? Everything’s going to be OK, the Rebbe will still love you…
What are you saying??? What sort of ‘pure, unvarnished truth’ is this???
They should have gone to Moshe Rabbenu, not Bilaam
So their error lay in the fact that once Bilaam had revealed to them that someone called Moshe Rabbenu was behind all the voices they’d heard, they should have then asked him: “Where is Moshe Rabbenu? What’s his address? What road does he live on? Har Sinai? OK, we’ll recite the hidden names, and it’ll show us some place in the Sinai desert, and we’ll fly off to him and ask him.”
If they’d have come to Moshe Rabbenu, they would have heard something else entirely. That they do need to wake up for Chatzot, and they do need to do hitbodedut, and they need to wake up for vatikin, and they do need to pray word by word, with proper intention – they would have heard some completely different things!
“What’s going to be? How are we going to make parnassa?” You’ll get your parnassa a different way. Hashem is not going to forsake you. He would have strengthened them that you can make parnassa without stealing.
Man’s mistake is always that he hears something that stirs him, he hears something amazing that inspires him, and then he immediately runs off to some ‘Bilaam’ who he knows is going to reinforce him against what he just heard.
 Isru Chag is the second day after the completion of a festival, that is celebrated as a ‘chag’ outside of Israel, but not within Israel.
 A term used in kabbalah to describe each kabbalistic world, or Sefira.
 The Midnight Lamentation, typically recited at or around halachic midnight.