Amazing shiur, from Rav Ofer Erez: See the light that is spreading!
Identifying the ‘Tzaddik HaEmet’ in our generation
There’s always been confusions and mistakes made in connection to the subject of the ‘True Tzaddik’, the Tzaddik HaEmet, who can bring each one back to serving Hashem.
Already, in the time of Noach, the people of that generation didn’t believe in him, and this issue has only continued to grow and entrench itself as one generation has followed another, chas v’shalom.
The True Tzaddik in each generation has continued to be persecuted, shamed and even sent to prison throughout all of Jewish history.
Avraham Avinu was persecuted by Nimrod. Korach instigated the whole of Am Yisrael against Moshe Rabbenu – yes, Moshe! You read that correctly.
The Ramchal was forced into exile and his books were burnt, and all of those who accompanied the holy Baal Shem Tov had to endure no end of shameful humiliation. And this is just a small drop in the bucket when it comes recounting the amount of persecution that our True Tzaddikim have experienced throughout history.
Which brings us to the main subject of this post, namely,
How can we identify who the ‘True Tzaddik is in our generation?
Rav Ofer Erez, shlita, answers this question below, and in the process also shares some tremendous advice for how we can navigate the very challenging circumstances. (You can read the original Hebrew version HERE.)
It’s written in the holy Zohar, in Parshat Metzora, there was no greater person in the Tribe of Levi, than Korach.
He was the head of the Levites, not only in terms of his external duties – even the opposite. Internally, his spiritual level was the greatest of anyone in the Tribe of Levi.
What’s more, Korach also possessed ruach hakodesh (the Divine spirit of prophecy). It’s written in the Midrash that Korach was from the Kohat family, who were responsible for carrying the Aron HaKodesh (Ark of the Covenant). All those who carried the Ark during its journey through the desert merited to have ruach hakodesh, and Korach saw that in the future, a Tzaddik would descend from him who would be the equal of both Moshe and Aaron. This was Shmuel the Prophet.
And also in this matter, Korach was correct – this was true ruach hakodesh. Shmuel HaNavi came from the descendants of Korach.
Korach was also one of the richest people in the world. He found part of the treasure storehouses of Yosef HaTzaddik, and this made him one of the richest people in the world.
With all this, as Rashi said, what did Korach see, that fooled him into going against Moshe Rabbenu?
The episode with Korach was not something simple: he managed to make the majority of the Jewish people stumble after him, into his mistaken beliefs.
The Midrash says, included with him [Korach] were 250 heads of the Sanhedrin, 250 of the biggest Sages in Israel, and he managed to make them stumble and to bring them over to his side, that they thought that Moshe Rabbenu’s path was mistaken in all its aspects.
The holy ARI says on the verse: A Tzaddik like a palm tree will blossom, that the final letters spell out Korach, that in the future Korach will be the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). After all, Korach complained about the priesthood, he wanted to be the Kohen Gadol.
The ARI says that this wasn’t just a figment of imagination, that in the future the destiny of Korach was to be the Kohen Gadol.
So then, another question arises:
What was Korach’s real mistake, then?
Korach made the whole of Am Yisrael to rise up against Moshe Rabbenu, and he was punished by the ground opening up its mouth, and swallowing Korach and all of his community.
There’s a well-known story about the first Admor of the three Chassidic communities of Satmar, the Yismach Moshe (Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, 1758-1841).
He wrote that Heaven showed him all of his previous reincarnations. He was a very awesome, holy tzaddik¸and he wrote that they showed him that he was also part of the generation of the midbar (desert).
One of his students asked him, Honorable and awesome Teacher, what did you do at the time of the machloket (controversy) between Korach and Moshe?
The Yismach Moshe replied, I abstained. I wasn’t on Korach’s side, nor on Moshe’s.
He was asked: How is it possible, that you weren’t on Moshe’s side?!
The Yismach Moshe replied: Do you know how difficult it was, not to agree with Korach?! That I merely abstained is to my credit!
Rav Ofer then says half joking: “We see that whoever abstained in the machloket of Korach and his congregation became a Rebbe in their next incarnation.”
We see what a holy soul the Yismach Moshe was, and just how very difficult it still was for him to be able to clarify the truth.
Because there are situations in life, and particularly as the geula draws ever closer, where everything is intensifying, and the illusory clouds are as thin as onion skins, so it’s difficult to recognize that it’s an illusion – and so the confusion grows even greater.
If we can’t clarify what the truth is with our own brains, so then what are we to do?
Rabbi Natan tells us, in Likutey Halachot, There is no other advice, or reasoning, other than just to run to Hashem, and to know that at each moment, we are in a reality where we could fall in to the biggest errors, and the biggest mistakes, to the point where the yetzer hara (evil inclination) can really show us that the lie is the truth, and that the truth is a lie.”
Only if a person goes to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, in prayer, in hitbodedut, and says 7 Tikkun HaKlalis a day, and asks Hashem: ‘Hashem, please show me the true path I should follow!’
This was King David’s prayer, who asked Hashem, show me Your truth.
This world is so very deceptive and confused, it’s very easy to turn the truth into a lie, and a lie into the truth.
This is one of the explanations given about the words of Rabbenu, who said that before the geula, there would be tremendous confusion, but whoever would do hitbodedut for an hour every day, by way of this, he’d be able to clarify all the confusion that would occur before the geula.
We see the reality all around us, we see everything that is happening in the world, both in the whole world and also within the Jewish people, and in the State of Israel, and within the chareidi community.
There is so very much confused thinking occurring in our present reality.
Each day, we need to ask HaKadosh Baruch Hu that He should help us to not become confused, and not to throw stones at the gardener, as Rabbenu explains in his Sippurey Maasiot (Rebbe Nachman’s Tales).
There was a gardener, who is the True Tzaddik (who was in charge of managing the garden ie. the world), and they threw stones at him, because they thought that he was meshuga (crazy). We need to know that this is a subject of great confusion, and we need to ask HaKadosh Baruch Hu every day help me, to not get confused and to not become mistaken!!
And if we still don’t know what the truth is? Then we should stay quiet.
We shouldn’t speak, and not get into any machloket about any Jew. Is that what Am Yisrael needs now, that we should start speaking about other people?!
HaKadosh Baruch Hu is waiting for us to have achdut (unity), He is waiting for us to become rectified.
Chazal tells us that the whole reason for the galut (exile) from the Second Temple was because of sinat chinam (baseless hatred). Brothers fell into sinat chinam. It’s the easiest thing, to fall into this.
We need to not speak badly about anybody else.
Sometimes there is a halacha that we need to speak, but most of the arguments today in the world are figments of the imagination, that comes from the faculty to create illusions.
Ask HaKadosh Baruch Hu, Help me, not to stumble, and not to get confused!
The world today is so very deceptive, especially now, that we all believe that we are on the cusp of the geula, and the confusion is only continuing and growing.
One of the points here is to search for the Tzaddik HaEmet – and there is a great deception here!
We see stories about so many tzaddikim… How much deceit there was about Rabbenu, and about Rav Natan, and all the other students of Rabbenu, that the more they were attached to this ‘point’ of the True Tzaddik, and the more they were publicizing this aspect in the world, the more deception was built up around them.
As we see in our generation, what sort of deceit there is around Rav Berland, shlita.
All the words that are being said, and all the confusions in the world, the Rav is also helping them (his opponents) with this. So how can we really join together with the Tzaddik HaEmet.
There is a Midrash by the name of Pesikta De’Rav Cahana, and there, there is a baraita, which brings the words of the Tannaim, which has been turned into a well-known song:
B’shaa she melech hamoshiach ba, omed al gag Beit HaMikdash, ve mashmia l’yisrael: Anavim, anavim…
Translation: At the time that the King Moshiach comes, [he will] stand on the roof of the Temple, and proclaim: Humble ones! Humble ones! The time has arrived for your redemption. And if you don’t believe, then see my light that is spreading!
It’s hard to understand what sort of reality the Midrash Psikta is talking about. That the Moshiach is going to stand on the roof of the Beit HaMikdash, and proclaim to Israel that the time for their geula has come.
How will it be possible, to not believe at that point? There’s Moshiach right in front of you, there’s the Beit HaMikdash right in front of you, how can these things not be believed in?!
Having Moshiach and the Beit HaMikdash is still not enough to believe in the geula?!
From this Midrash, we see that the answer is apparently no, there will still be confusion in the world!
But then immediately, the Pesikta says something very important – how will it be possible to know, that he is Moshiach? How is it possible to know, that this is the Tzaddik HaEmet, the True Tzaddik?
What is the sign?
He’s not going to give over amazing Torah chiddushim (novel insights). He’s not going to show you miracles and wonders, rather it says:
See the light that is spreading.
The meaning of this is that you will see, the moment that you bind yourselves to me, and join with me, that you will feel that you will want to draw closer to Hashem, and to return in teshuva.
There is no other sign, especially in our generation, to identify who is the Tzaddik HaEmet. The Tzaddik HaEmet is the one who awakens love, and yearning, and a desire to come closer to Hashem within is, and encourages us to regret all the things that we should.
And who doesn’t need to repent, in our generation?
Who doesn’t need to make teshuva? All of us need to, except for the True Tzaddik! And we really want to do this, for every Jewish soul want to make teshuva, and everyone wants to come closer to Hashem!
This Pesikta tells us a very wonderful thing: You should know something: You want to know what the ‘sign’ of the True Tzaddik is? If you get a thought of making teshuva, if you start to yearn for, and to desire to come closer to Hashem Yitbarach, this is the sign that you’re dealing with the Tzaddik HaEmet!
Baruch Hashem, how many wars, how many machlokot, how many arguments – whole books have been written against Rav Berland. But despite all this, more and more people are drawing closer to him. Why? Inasmuch as that even after all the machloket, after a person comes close to the Rav, he feels that he wants to come closer to Hashem.
The Pesikta tells us that the sign of Moshiach is: See the light that is spreading.
This is the light of loving Hashem, this is the light of teshuva, the light of yearning for Hashem, of praying for hour after hour, and dancing and singing, and craving learning Torah.
Each person who feels confused; each person who is asking questions, there is only one answer:
See the light that is spreading.
Search for the True Tzaddik, who shines the light of ahavat Hashem into us, and causes us to yearn for God, and who wakes up inside of us that feeling that we want to return in teshuva, and to throw everything else away.
Korach didn’t bring us closer to God.
Korach only made us fall, and anesthetized everyone’s desire for kedusha (holiness) – quite the opposite! He clearly showed just how far a person can fall!
A personal story to conclude: On the night of Shavuot, I prayed in the ulam (hall which is used as a bet knesset) of Rav Berland. I saw an enormous wonder. While the whole world is talking against the Rav, and against the community, and there is no end of shame and humiliation, but I’m witnessing around 700 people there, all lit up with the holy light of Hashem via their connection with the Rav shlita.
Even from prison we can – See the light that is spreading.
Even just from the telephone conversations, and we all know what terrible conditions the Rav is experiencing, while he’s talking to us, in ‘conditions’ that aren’t ‘conditions’ at all, in a harsh prison.
Yet all we see is more enthusiasm, more spiritual awakening, more of that light that is spreading.
And may it be Hashem’s will, that we should merit to have the complete geula, the sweet and merciful way.
 Tzaddik c’Tamar Yifrach – the last letters spell out KoRaCH.