Based on Likutey Moharan I, Lesson #244
Isn’t it enough that a person is in this vulgar world, in which angels are incapable of withstanding [the temptations of] this world. For so we find, that angels once came to this world and stumbled greatly* (Zohar I, 58a). But Jews are stronger than angels….
The Torah was not given to the ministering angels (Kiddushin 54a).
Depending on how the following is told, it’s either a risqué joke or a source of encouragement. (Here, it’s the latter.) In the Kedushah of Shabbat Musaf it is told that the angels, in their Heavenly abode, ask in awe: Where is the place of [God’s] glory?! What happens when they visit our planet? They ask a different sort of question: “Where is Sarah your wife?” (Genesis 18:9).
You are not an angel. You’re a human being and you live in a very challenging environment. Like other animals, you have a body that needs to be cared for, fed and housed. Unlike other animals, you have psychological needs that need tending to.
So your desire to do a better job at being Jewish—more honesty, generosity, deeper understanding of God and His Torah, sincerity in prayer—keeps running into detours and dead ends. But Jews are stronger than angels. If it were only the various facets of self-care that challenged us, difficult as they may be, you could overcome them.
But in addition to the above, you have to deal with your fellow human beings, like the other animals, but unlike them (i.e., in a more civilized and peaceful way, hopefully). Unlike angels, you’re not running on automatic pilot. You are affected by your environment. You’re interest and desire to do what’s good and right will peter out if you don’t work at perpetuating it. Your neighbors’ values and pastimes come to your attention, and all too easily can encroach on your mind and your time. After all, we’re only human.
So to improve your chances of succeeding at Judaism, Rebbe Nachman recommends limiting your association with those who behave non-Jewishly. It may cost you some of the short-term benefits of this world, but will keep you clinging to what’s kosher and Jewish in your life.
© Copyright 2009 Breslov Research Institute
*Rebbe Nachman is referring to Aza and Azael, angels who descended to our planet before the Deluge. They assumed physical form, became trapped in the corporeal and committed multiple crimes of immorality.