Parshat Shmot: No memory of this world will remain
Secrets of the Torah with Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita.
What does it mean ‘after the desert’? What does it mean, “and he went after the desert?” That Moshe went to look for some nice pasture, or a better-quality pasture? Rabbi Avraham ben HaRambam says – Moshe went to look at desert after desert, he wasn’t satisfied with just any old desert, he was looking for a particular desert that was located far away from all the other deserts.
A desert where no-one ever went there, no-one ever passed through it, no-one had ever stepped foot in it for even a moment, because only there could he reach his shleimut (completeness), and be completely attached to Hashem, in truth. And to know that ‘Ein od Milvado’, and to know that he had no connection whatsoever to this world. That he had no connection to anything, and where he could reach a place of being completely nullified to Hashem.
There is no ‘world’
A person needs to be set apart from all gashmius (materialism), and to know that there is no physicality, and that there is no world. This world is just a dream, a fantasy. The holy Zohar says (in Shelach Lach) – that in the future, no memory of this world will remain, not even so much as a shoelace, nothing!
No houses, no properties, no problems, no sorrows, nothing from this world will remain. For as long as a person still retains some memory of this world, he’ll be unable to reach his tikkun (spiritual rectification), unless he’s tortured and purified from all his lusts, and all his fantasies about this world, until he forgets everything. He shouldn’t have any memory of this world!
There are no houses in the next world
A person can’t enter olam haba (the next world) if he still retains something of his body, or something of this world. Because in the next world, there are no houses, there’s no food, there’s nothing, everything is completely different there. The body will be transformed into the neshama (soul), and no trace of this world will remain.
It’s told about R’Shimshon Mey’HaYar (‘from the forest’) that he was a Breslover Chassid who used to serve Hashem day and night with tremendous strength and enthusiasm, until he passed away very suddenly. He came to R’Avraham Barniv, the grandson of Rabbenu (Rebbe Nachman), and told him everything he’d seen:
“Rav Natan came to me and took me to Rabbenu HaKadosh. The Rebbe said to me: ‘who says you’re a Breslover chassid?’ You went to Uman, you visited the tziyun (grave), you displayed some mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) – all of this is true. But it’s not so simple to be a Breslover chassid, it doesn’t come so easily. I have a notebook here, let’s check if you’re registered.’
‘You still have the smell of olam hazeh’
“The Rebbe took his notebook, then said to me: ‘It’s ok, you’re registered in my notebook as a Breslover chassid, but you still have the smell of olam hazeh (this lowly world)!’”
For as long as a person still has even a speck of this world, or some connection to this world, some stench of gashmius, or of the lusts of this world, he can’t reach his place in shemayim (Heaven). R’Shimshon continued:
“Came two angels who took me to the Dinor River – a river of fire, and they immersed me [in it]. What can be said about how much suffering and pain [we feel] during this immersion, it’s completely impossible to fathom it. Such suffering doesn’t exist in all of the world. However, the pleasure that we feel after this immersion also can’t be fathomed. After this immersion, Rav Natan came back with me to return to Rabbenu, z’tl. Rabbenu told me: ‘I still feel you have some olam hazeh in you. Immerse again! It’s forbidden to have any belief in the lowly world here, or any connection to it, or any relation to it.
‘A person can’t leave from here until he’s got rid of any hint of olam hazeh, and all the dirt from olam hazeh, he can’t enter olam haba.’ Rav Natan came with me to this second immersion, and when I returned to Rabbenu he told me: ‘Verily, you have been purified.’”
The body is just casing for the soul
We want to have eternal life, the body is just the casing, the body is just the casing for the neshama. Why did Hashem create our bodies? It’s only so that the neshama wouldn’t rise above [to heaven] before its time. The neshama has nothing to do in this world, it always wants to just return above, to its root. It has no connection to this world – another time, it has to eat, another time it has to drink – it’s had enough, already!
The neshama doesn’t want to be here
A person is obligated to eat, otherwise the neshama will run away. The second he doesn’t eat, his soul will leave him and return to its root. The neshama doesn’t want to be here! 120 years is already the most it can manage. It’s already run out of energy, it’s already asking to leave here, it already wants to leave here. It can stick it out for 120 years, but it only lasts the disetance by way of eating, which is why we always need to worry about our caring for our body’s needs.
But really? The body is just the casing for the neshama, just like you keep a diamond in a case, and there’s someone who’s always worrying about the case, and who’s repairing the case.
Why are you polishing the case?
You are polishing the case all day long, you’re worrying about it, while there’s a bunch of diamonds staring you in the face! The ikker (main point) is the diamonds! The ikker is the soul! Repair the diamonds! Polish the diamonds! You are something eloki (holy / Divine), why are you polishing the case?! So that it looks lustrous? All day long, you’re polishing it, and at the end it won’t have any lustre at all despite all the polishing, because nothing of the body, or this casing, will remain.
“See, I have set before you life, and goodness, and death and evil…choose life.” Who needs to tell a person to not choose death?
It’s written: “life…and goodness…death and evil”. Which idiot is going to pick evil? Who is going to choose death? This is a sign that here, in this world, everything is confused and upside down. ‘Death’ is called ‘life’, and a person imagines that all the gashmius and lusts are the good life. And real ‘life’ – the holy Torah – is imagined to be ‘death’, which is why the Torah says ‘be very careful! It could well be that what you think is ‘life’ is really death. Be very careful! You could die! ‘Choose life’ – choose the Torah, and holiness and tahara (spiritual purity).
Each and every one of us is engaged in a very long war. There are so many who entered the pat of holiness and serving Hashem, and there were so many who couldn’t cope with the struggles, and who couldn’t last the distance.
The moment that the evil thoughts show up, and the lusts, a person is crushed and he starts saying that maybe, this fight just isn’t for him. But do you really have another path?! ‘Choose life!’ There is good, and there is evil…there is nothing in-between. There’s no such thing as ‘this isn’t for me.’ If you don’t choose life, then you’re choosing death! You could suffer a [spiritual] decline, you could forsake the Torah and stumble into forbidden things, etc.
So, you are obliged to choose life.
If a person really want to closer to Hashem, even if he just wants it, there is nothing that can stand in the way of his ratzon (wanting, will). There is nothing that can stand in the way of holy ratzon. Whatever a person wants, he will attain it, as Rav Natan brings down in Likutey Halachot.
He says that people who wanted to get rich used to travel around to trade in precious stones, and they’d travel to remote places in the middle of jungles, and in the middle of tribesmen, and in the middle of deserts, and most of these people were killed on the way. They sacrificed themselves to earn a kilo of gold, or a kilo of diamonds.
So, a person isn’t going to sacrifice himself for HaKadosh Baruch Hu, or for holiness? We should learn from the sitra achra (forces of darkness) how people make so much effort for the sitra achra. In university, they sit there all night studying, and they don’t sleep all night, for a few worthless attainments, for this vanishing world.
So we aren’t going to learn Torah, and we aren’t going to make an effort for the sake of holiness?
Translated from the Tzama Nafshi newsletter.