“Pharaoh hardened his heart” (Exodus 7:22).
Ever since Adam ate from the forbidden fruit, God has been acting to fix this world and bring it to its ultimate perfection. Destiny is nothing more than the progress toward human perfection. Ultimately, everything will turn out exactly as God planned and willed. Therefore even the actions of the wicked do not affect His design in the slightest. The Divine blueprint is very profound and God is able to manipulate everything according to His ultimate plan.
Nevertheless, it is absolutely forbidden to violate any law of the Torah. We often fail to realize how important and powerful we truly are. By breaking a Torah law, we cause damage to all of the upper worlds and bring about much spiritual destruction. Unless a person sincerely regrets his past actions and changes his ways, a time of reckoning will be had in order to cleanse him from the spiritual filth he has created.
Notwithstanding this, God’s blueprint for the world remains intact and God will finish exactly as He planned. It is absolutely impossible for us to understand how this is possible – for on the one hand, He is in control, while on the other hand, we have freedom of choice. However, this is one of the fundamental principles that Rebbe Nachman taught us.
We do find many examples of actions that violate the Torah and yet fulfill the desire of God. In this week’s parashah, Pharaoh hardened his heart against the clear demonstration of God’s sovereignty through the Ten Plagues. But each time he refused to listen and let the Jews leave, it led to a greater sanctification of God’s Name through the miraculous display of yet another plague. Similarly, Pharaoh’s intent to destroy the Jewish nation through harsh bondage resulted in the Jews becoming humbled enough to receive the Torah.
Precisely because God is so lofty and can manipulate the world to bring it to its ultimate perfection, we always have the ability to do teshuvah (repentance). Even if someone were to transgress the entire Torah a thousand times, God forbid, God remains above it all and no harm will come to His ultimate plan. Therefore we should never give up hope! God waits patiently for us to show genuine remorse and regret. Then He will guide the world in a way that our past misdeeds will somehow be transformed to fix the world.
As Rebbe Nachman declared, “There is a way that everything can become for the best!”
Based on this concept, Reb Yitzchak Breiter writes:
Know and understand that everything that happens to us, both spiritually and materially – including what we ourselves do, whether deliberately or unwittingly, willfully or under compulsion – all comes about through the decree of God. Even if you want to accomplish something holy, if you are not yet sufficiently worthy and have not sanctified yourself enough to achieve it, Heaven arranges things in such a way that you get distracted from it. Some idea gets implanted in your mind that prevents you from carrying out the holy deed, even if you want to. This is not because God wants to take revenge, but because of His love. …
The thing to do is cry out to God about all the wrong you have done. Tell God everything. Pour out your heart to Him and plead with Him for your very life. Ask Him to help you get nearer your holy goal. God’s way of dealing with us in this respect is one of His most amazing wonders. His understanding of us and our needs is perfect (Seven Pillars of Faith, Pillar #1).
Based on Likutey Halakhot, Simaney Beheimah VeChayah 4
This essay brought me back to simcha from the clutches of the Yetzer, who seems recently to be especially sophisticated in his ploys to get me down.
It’s almost unbelievable how something can be learned (superficially learned, at least) a hundred times, a thousand times, but if it isn’t been sunk deep and anchored in the heart, so that the thoughts and the actions are fully merged, the entire lesson and it’s value can seem to just…disappear.
This is what happened to me.
For a time I carried around a copy of Rav Breiter’s Sheva Amudei Emunah (until one of my beautiful kids misplaced it, of course, all in accordance with His Will) everywhere I went. I tried–and sometimes even succeeded–to learn the book any free moment I had.
And it really did wonders for me. Especially (and this is where the Hashgochoh Protis becomes so obvious) the lesson in the very first pillar, that if you have a true, sincere desire to do some avodah, but you are not yet worthy of accomplishing this, God will actually distract you from that service, to give you more time to become worthy of it.
I always liked thinking of it as God not letting you skip steps, because, in my limited understanding, it’s not really a race to the finish, but more like the steady building of a structure. To be fair, I know that even that metaphor is off a bit because if I understand Reb Noson correctly, we’re just the ones who make the materials for the structure, and it’s the True Tzaddik who finds those properly created materials (amongst the dregs) we’ve made from our mitzvot, and then the Tzaddik, as the True Builder, uses those materials to craft the structures of our souls, individually and collectively.
This always helped me whenever I started even in the smallest way to try to get closer to G-d, and it just didn’t seem to be working out. I know there’s thousands of other teachings that explain why falling shouldn’t be something to get you down, but for whatever reason, Rav Breiter’s way of wording it, really resonated deep in my soul.
I thought I’d had that lesson etched onto my heart.
Of course, as it turns out, I didn’t.
In fact, I hadn’t even thought about that specific lesson for weeks and weeks. And the change in me, from falling and not allowing myself to become unhappy about it, to recently seeming to get frustrated with the failures in between the falls and getting back up, happened so subtly, I didn’t really notice it until now. I just start thinking that what I know was frustration and despair was actually some kind of “drive to do better” and a “good motivator.” I started thinking that my failures were happening, somehow, outside the plan and path that God has for the course of events in my life and the world (G-d Forbid).
Your essay couldn’t have come at a better time, because the misunderstanding of the frustration as a “good motivator” was just slowly shading into explicit “frustration and despair,” and I was feeling on the verge of believing that maybe, perhaps, this one particular concept of Rebbe Nachman’s, while applicable to everyone else, just wasn’t true for me. (I pray from the depths I never ever fall into that way of thinking, ever).
Then I came across your essay here (even though I was on the website to see if the Rosenberg edition of Likutey Halachot was for sale yet…so excited about that, by the way), and took about ten minutes to read it and re-read it, and it hit me that I’d been going in the wrong direction when it came to reacting properly to my faults and falls.
I’m trying to get in the habit of thanking people more when they help me in an important way, because it seems that sometimes people will write something, as you did, and wonder if it ever really touched or helped anyone.
Well, it helped me immensely.
You truly pulled me into the dance circle and turned my growing discontent into joy.