“The Tzaddik – The Foundation of the World”
transcribed and translated from recordings of Rav Eliezer Berland Shlit”a
“I am Yosef”
The first thing that a Jews needs to search for in his life is: Who is this “tzaddik yesod olam”—the tzaddik in whose merit the world is sustained. He needs to search for the tzaddikimwho are upholding the world, thetzaddikim who are protecting us.
In each of the three parshiot, VaYeshev,Miketz, and VaYigash, we are looking for the “tzaddik yesod olam—the tzaddik who is upholding the world,” the true tzaddik, Yosef HaTzaddik. This week in the parsha of VaYigash, Yosef shouts, “I am Yosef”—the true tzaddik reveals himself. The brothers were all true tzaddikim, completely holy, but they didn’t believe that Yosef was the “tzaddik yesod olam.” They mistakenly thought that YosefHaTzaddik was exactly like them, just that he just served Hashem more than they did, learned more, and kept his eyes better. Each one of the brothers was sure that he himself was the true tzaddik. What they didn’t know is that the tzaddik yesod olam is something completely different. He is above comprehension, above any form of human understanding.
In his perush on the Chumash “Heichal HaBracha,” The Kamarna Rebbe says: The light of Yosef HaTzaddik enlightened all the worlds and all the sefiros. It lit up the world from one end of the world to the other. It was as bright as the sun. But the brothers had no idea that he was such a bright light. As is written in the HolyZohar in parshas VaYeshev, Yosef was everything and was the source of everything. All abundance flowed to the world through him. Yosef was at all times able to hide his light and his power, “Yosef was handsome and lovely to see” has therashei taivos “yatom—orphan.” The truetzaddik is an orphan and he is completely hidden. He is totally concealed, and no one knows anything about him. And this is what Rabbeinu brings in Likutei Moharan, Book 2, Torah 77: “Because there is atzaddik who is the beauty and the magnificence and the grace of the entire world, in the aspect of, ‘and Yosef was handsome and lovely to look at.’ This is the aspect of ‘Beautiful in its panoramic vista, the joy of all the earth’ because this is the true tzaddik who is the aspect of Yosef who is the elegance and the beauty of the whole world. And when such splendor and magnificence is revealed in the world, meaning when such a tzaddik,who is the majesty of the whole world, becomes known and revered in the world, then the eyes of the world are opened. And anyone who comes close and is attached to this ultimate grace has his eyes opened and he looks at himself and sees where he is holding with all of his character traits, and he can also see the greatness of Hashem.”
The true tzaddik comes for one reason only: to reveal Hashem. The true tzaddikcomes to reveal that Hashem exists in the world. That a person shouldn’t think that he is acting through his own power, that he can walk, that he can do things alone, that he can run alone, that he can act alone without needing Hashem. Because even though here he bangs his hand, and there he knocks his leg, still he thinks, “I walk. I run. I do things.” A person thinks that he is running the world: he walks; he breathes. They can show him in one second that if something small in his body moves a thousandth of a millimeter, then he is finished! Immediately he needs operations, tests, x-rays, only then does he understand that he is not Elokim, that he is not an angel, that he is not running the world.
Life teaches us very slowly, that a person is built from “openings and hollows. It is revealed and known in the presence of Your glorious throne that if one of them were ruptured or one of the were blocked, it would be impossible to exist and stand in Your presence even for a single moment.” When a person reaches the age of 60, his body starts falling apart: here one of his discs moves out of place and there one of his tendons is displaced. At 60, his legs start drying up, his tendons are drying up. Until the age of 60 a person can fool himself that he is something special, that he can do anything. But at this age, he already sees that he is not something special at all: look, I fell; I can’t even walk. But who will open our eyes for us and show us that at the time when we are healthy and strong and powerful that everything is Hashem? Our health is from Hashem. Our strength is from Hashem. Everything is from Hashem. It is only through the tzaddik who is the aspect of Yosef. He is the only one who can show us that there is a G-d in the world.
The whole reason that we come to this world is to know that we aren’t doing anything, that Hashem is ruling the world. We only need to see the G-dliness, to see Hashem—in every situation to see Hashem, with every movement to see Hashem, with every thought and word to see Hashem. A person moves his hand or his leg, it is all Hashem. Hashem is moving his arm. Hashem is moving his leg. A person lives in the world; he thinks he is a ‘Chevreman’. He builds buildings. He builds yeshivas. If he doesn’t realize that Hashem is doing it all, then it’s all just aTower of Bavel . Just as Shlomo HaMelech said, “I built a building, a celestial abode for you.” Immediately Hashem responded, “You built a building? You built it? If so, it is already decreed that the building will be destroyed.” Rather, you must say, “Hashem built it! Hashem did it!” The Maggid of Mezritch told the famous story where it was forbidden to say the word ‘I.’ If a person says the word ‘I,’ he is in big trouble.
All of the Torah, the Gemara, theShulchan Aruch, anything that impartsda’as, all our prayers—they’re all only so that we should know that Hashem does everything—that there is a G-d in the world. We don’t do anything— we don’t move a hand, we don’t move a foot, we don’t breathe. “The entire soul will praise G-d, Hallelulah.” Every single breath is from Hashem. All of the work of a person until he is 120 years old is to find out who is the tzaddik in whose merit the whole world exists, in whose merit abundance flows into the world. Similar to Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa about whom theGemara writes: “The entire world is given sustenance in the merit of Chanina My son, but Chanina is satisfied with a portion of carobs.” The first thing that a Jew needs to know is: in what merit does the world exist? In whose merit is the world sustained? He needs to search and find out who is this tzaddik in whose merit the world exists. He needs to try to find thesetzaddikim who are maintaining the world. Who are the tzaddikim who are protecting us?
“And anyone who comes close to thistzaddik, anyone who is truly attached to this tzaddik, he can tell where he is really holding as regards fixing his character traits (Likutei Tefillos 77). The proof that a person has found such a tzaddik is that he begins to hate all the bad within himself, his evil inclinations and all the materialism that surrounds him. But he only hates the body, the bad things, all his base desires. In the best case scenario, at least he doesn’t make them his ideal—he isn’t proud of them. The moment that a person comes close to the true tzaddik, he starts looking only for the good things, sees only good in each person, and starts to love Am Yisrael. He loves them very much and is ready to make personal sacrifices in order to help anyone. He just wants to break out of all his bad character traits, from all his base desires, and merit to make complete teshuva for HashemYisborach.
“Because this true tzaddik has the power to fix the whole world”—because thistzaddik can bring back the whole world to the good. If people would only draw close to him and believe in him, they would be freed from all their bad traits and would be completely purified, because thistzaddik already has broken away from the four elements. He has purified the four elements, and he is already free from any base desire. He can purify any person from any of their bad desires. This is what the Gaon Rebbe Meir Simcha HaCohen from Dvinsk (author of the “Ohr Same’ach” on the Rambam) said on theGemara Sota (13a), “And there they held a great and imposing eulogy” (Bereishis50:10). “It was taught: even horses and even donkeys.” Rebbe Meir Simcha HaCohen says “a great and imposing eulogy”—even the horses eulogized Yaakov Avinu. There was such a great and imposing eulogy that the horses cried, the donkeys cried, everyone cried for thetzaddik. Even the horses knew that thetzaddik had gone. Even the donkeys knew that the tzaddik was gone. “The ox recognizes its owner, the donkey the trough of its master. But the Children of Israel do not recognize [Me], My nation doesn’t consider.” The horses acknowledge the true tzaddik. The donkeys acknowledge the true tzaddik. This is an absolute and total embarrassment, that people don’t recognize the tzaddik. How can people be so blind? They run around the world not even knowing who the true tzaddik is.
A person, with all his pride and with all his evil inclinations, doesn’t want to believe in the tzaddik. He doesn’t want to know who the tzaddik is. But the horses and the donkeys felt that they were lost without the tzaddik. Who would sustain the world? Who would protect them? Who will watch over the horses? Who would guard the donkeys? Who will protect the world? They know in whose merit they are alive. If the tzaddik isn’t around then there will be a famine. There will be a holocaust in the world. There will be wars. This is what Rabbi Meir Simcha HaCohen says: search for the tzaddikim, follow thetzaddikim, open your eyes and search for the tzaddik in whose merit you are alive.