How can we clear the air and start anew? What’s the solution? Rebbe Nachman gave us that the key!
We Jews, and the rest of the world for that matter, often forget that we weren’t always the Chosen People. When this little old world of ours started, God wanted everyone to be Jewish (Derekh HaShem 2:4). That means every member of the human race, through good works and prayer, could have provided God with hitpa’arut (pride).
Didn’t happen. From the moment Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, the world rolled downhill at a rapid clip. In the span of just ten generations, mankind not only failed to provide God with hitpa’arut, but they made Him regret the whole enterprise: “God regretted that He made humankind…He was pained in His heart” (Genesis 6:6). That’s anti-hitpa’arut, at its worst. God renounced His own creation in no uncertain terms (ibid., 6:7).
What were people doing that was so antithetical to God’s hope for His creations? Rebbe Nachman teaches that the key element for bringing people, including oneself, to true emunah (faith) is peace and friendship. When we share with one another—and especially when we give tzedakah (charity) properly— we create an oasis of tranquility with another human being. The more people we give to, the larger the oasis we create. (The better we give, the more tranquil and clean the oasis air.)
The Generation of the Flood constantly stole from one another. One of the most pernicious methods of theft they employed, called chamas, was taking less than a penny’s worth of merchandise from vendors. “It’s such a trifle, less than a penny. There’s no harm in that.” Of course, there was also no legal recourse for the merchant, so people could get away with it.
Rebbe Nachman teaches that the key element for bringing people, including oneself, to true emunah (faith) is peace and friendship!
Nu. Do you think this made the vendors happy? Instead of fostering an attitude of societal cooperation and friendship, people disliked one another—and caused God to dislike them (Bereishit Rabbah 31:1)! Their dislike was neither passive nor silent. It was proactive and vociferous (ibid., 31:4). In stealing one another’s money and peace of mind, they called upon themselves their own destruction.
The attitude of chamas carried over into other areas of life. As Rebbe Nachman teaches in Sefer HaMidot (Geneivah u’Gezeilah A:1), once a person permits himself to steal from others, he opens the door to every type of sin. The chamas of theft developed into the chamas of murder, idolatry and sexual immorality (Bereishit Rabbah 31:6).
Which is not surprising. What’s common to all of the above-mentioned evils is their divisiveness. Their inception—the thought of doing them—comes only if a person feels disconnected, “other,” from his intended victim.* Their execution—actually doing them—not only actualizes the distance and otherness between perpetrator and victim, it also moves them from the private domain to the public, introducing distance and otherness into the minds and hearts of the people of their community. They poison society’s atmosphere.
What’s the solution? How can we clear the air and start anew?
Floods are not only impractical, they are also extremely unpleasant. Instead, it’s a better idea to give away, rather than hoard. Rebbe Nachman quotes the verse “Wealth adds many friends” (Proverbs 19:4). It seems that millionaires have millions of friends, but those friends are interested in the money, not the one who has it. The genuine wealth that truly adds—produces—genuine affection is the tzedakah that one gives away. The money you give to tzedakah and the friendships you gain thereby are your true wealth (Bava Batra 11a).
When one sows concern, it grows into a circle, a community and a society of people who take care of one another. People feel and are safe, physically and emotionally. Their security and (subconscious) awareness of the oneness that they constitute open their ears to hear the true meaning of what tzaddikim teach, the love and awe of God. That’s hitpa’arut!
*Even though idolatry seems to be victimless, it is not.
(Based on Likutey Moharan I:17)