It’s Harder to be Bound to the Tzaddik than to be the Tzaddik Himself

On the importance of attachment and nullification to the tzaddik

R' Berland with Meir Asoulin
Rabbi Eliezer Berland shlit"a with his student Meir Asoulin

In the book “Yalkut Iyim Rabim,” the author, Rabbi Yisrael Aryeh Yitzchak, writes about the importance of being attached to the true tzaddik:

“It is a very great avodah to be attached to the true tzaddik, and this is harder than being the tzaddik himself.”

“It’s written in the book “Retamim Tzofim”: I heard from Rabbi Bunim of Peshischa, who asked the holy Rabbi, the Yid HaKadosh z”l, who would say, everything that’s attached to the pure is pure.  He asked him, ‘Is the Kadosh Baruch Hu a conceder?  And what is this opinion that through a simple thing (a simple reason), he will have the level of a tzaddik who has no benefit from this world?’

“He answered him: This is a very great avodah to be attached to the true tzaddik – and it’s harder than being the tzaddik himself, and there’s no concession here at all.  He who is used to being by true tzaddikim knows and understands his holy words!”

“Korach, Dasan and Aviram, Doeg the Edomite, who were very, very exalted tzaddikim, through a subtle thought about Moshe Rabbeinu came to all of this.”

“…Certainly, at the beginning there was some miniscule aspect of a very subtle thought about Moshe Rabbeinu a”h, and they came to all of this.  Likewise, Doeg and Achitofel, in whom wasn’t found any subtle [amount of sin], God forbid, and Doeg would always ‘worry’ [in Hebrew, ‘doeg’] in his heart about the fear of Heaven, and stumbled because of a subtle thought about King David a”h, the tzaddik of the world, who is Mashiach.  Through this they came to what they did.

“And you should know that it’s forbidden to speculate after any tzaddik, and [one should] attach himself to him and to all the tzaddikim in one’s heart, mind, and soul, and to receive holiness even if one doesn’t travel to him actually with one’s body, and through this fulfill ‘to love, etc’ and ‘your people are all tzaddikim.’”

“Don’t test him and don’t ask him for a sign or a miracle.”

“Our Sages said: ‘If the Rav resembles an angel of God, seek Torah from his mouth’ (Moed Katan 17a).  Rabbi Zusha from Anipoli zt”l explains that just as you have never seen an angel before in your life, and in any case won’t test it or ask it for a sign or miracle, such is it by one’s Rabbi – not to test him and not to ask about him, rather one needs to believe that he is certainly a tzaddik – then seek Torah from his mouth.

“When the evil inclination sees that good people receive rebuke from the Rav, it places hatred into their eyes, through which they won’t accept his words.”

Download the text (in Hebrew)

On this subject, in a lesson given publicly, Rabbi David Abuchatzeira shlit”a spoke about the importance of nullification to the tzaddik.  These are his holy words:

“Binding and attachment to the tzaddik: Rabbi Bunim of Peshischa once walked with his Rebbe, the Yid HaKadosh, who he was very attached to.  The Yid said, ‘What’s attached to the pure is pure.’

“Rabbi Bunim answered him, ‘The aspect of judgement has been eclipsed.  To be attached to the pure, one needs to ascend many, many levels, like the braisa of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair says.  “Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair said: Torah leads to carefulness, carefulness leads to zeal, zeal leads to cleanliness, cleanliness leads to separation, separation leads to purity, purity leads to saintliness, saintliness leads to humility, humility leads to fear of sin, fear of sin leads to holiness, holiness leads to Divine inspiration, Divine inspiration leads to the revival of the dead” (Avodah Zara 20b).

“’From here [we understand] that in order to reach purity, once needs many levels,’ Rabbi Bunim continued questioning.

“The Yid HaKadosh answered him: ‘To reach the level of nullification to the tzaddik is a lot more than the avodah of purity.  In the avodah of purity there are only five, six levels; but the avodah of nullification to the tzaddik is without end.’

“The Gemara in tractate Succah says, ‘Chezkiah said in the name of Rabbi Yirmiah, who said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai: “I can exempt the entire world from judgment from the day I was created until now, and if my son Elazar is with me – from the day the world was created until now, and if Yosam ben Uziyahu is with us – from the day the world was created until its end.”’

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“The author of Toldos Adam asks, ‘If Rabbi Shimon said that he could exempt, then why didn’t he exempt the entire world from judgment?’

“The Toldos Adam, the grandson of the Yid HaKadosh, answers, ‘Because they [the world] didn’t nullify themselves to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.  If there’s no nullification to the tzaddik, the tzaddik can’t exempt you from judgment.’

“In order to receive influence from the tzaddik, who is the channel of influx who draws the influx to the world – one needs to nullify oneself.

“Like [when] all the great sages of the generation would come to the Rebbe the Noam Elimelech a”h to be a guest for Shabbos.  The ‘Meor v’Shemesh’ testified about it, ‘I’m his student who served him and saw how he removes his body from the weekday and hangs it on the window, and after Shabbos returns it.’  He would become purified on Shabbos; they would feel the extra soul upon the tzaddik.

“Even the maidservants of the Noam Elimelech would request before Shabbos pardon and forgiveness like on Yom Kippur eve.  When Shabbos would come in by the Noam Elimelech the entire creation would become sanctified.

“So one needs to nullify oneself to Rabbi Shimon, to the tzaddik, in order to exempt the world from the aspect of judgment.  The evidence for this — the Gemara says, ‘Abaye said: Many did like Rabbi Yishmael and succeeded; like Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai – and didn’t succeed.’  They didn’t succeed because they didn’t nullify themselves before him.”

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