Rav Nachman Shiur #13C: Speech III –Fasting
By: Rav Itamar Eldar
There is an additional way of extracting man from his silence. This vehicle gives him the ability to speak words with a power to gather the sparks of speech and letters that are imprisoned in the world:
The essence of the wholeness and adornment of faith is specifically to bring closer those who are removed, representing "all calling in the Name of Hashem" – even idolators will be brought to the faith of Israel, and they will serve Him together.
To bring faith to its completion and perfection – i.e., to bring closer those who are far removed – it is necessary first to elevate the sparks of the letters of speech. When the letters of speech are clarified, then speech turns inward and gathers the sparks of holiness from within the shells, leaving the shells with no life force. The idolators free themselves from the shells when they see that they have no life force. They cast off their (false) faith, fulfilling the image of "On that day man shall cast off the gods of his silver and the gods of his gold," and attach themselves to the faith of Israel. This fulfills the promise, "Then I shall make the nations into a clear language." "Clear language" means the speech that is clarified among them; it turns itself towards the nations in order to gather from among them the remaining sparks of holiness, thus fulfilling the expression, "All calling in the Name of Hashem" – that all will cleave to the faith of Israel. To elevate the sparks of speech it is necessary to fast. This is in accordance with the words, "From the path of their sins and from their iniquities they shall be afflicted…" – then He sends His word. For the essence of the repair of speech is through fasting... Through fasting, when one causes his own hunger, then he draws from the waters of kindness to moisten his throat, and then he is able to speak…" (Likutei Moharan Kama 62:3-5).
As we saw above, at the end of teaching no. 94, when a person manages to redeem fully the sparks within an object, the object becomes nothing; it is completely nullified. The life force of any thing comes to it from the letter which is the Divine spark hidden within it, and when this bursts from within it and leaves it empty, the existence of the thing ceases. But this "emptying" has spiritual significance that is related to man's connection with the object.
As we saw at the end of the previous shiur, when a person stands facing the Supreme Purpose, then all of Creation declares the Oneness of Hashem. The coverings and details of the object are no longer of any interest or importance. They are nullified in the essence upon which man is now concentrating exclusively. When a person's soul is connected with the soul of his neighbor, he pays no attention to his neighbor's garments or appearance. When the Bride meets her Beloved with holy desire, and he showers her with his words, she does not hear their content – all of her attention is devoted to the encounter, to the voice that emanates. A person who looks at the reality around him, and through his words cleaves to and gathers up its internal significance, ceases to pay attention to distinctions and differences. At that moment there is no difference between a table and a chair, between war and peace, between a catastrophe (heaven forefend) and salvation. All the voices emanating from all of these merge into the great symphony that they create, and there is no longer any possibility of isolating them in order to hear each voice independently. "Then I shall make the nations into a clear language."
And in order to elevate these sparks of speech, R. Nachman maintains, it is necessary to fast. Why to fast?
A person who afflicts himself seeks a response. A person who eats is busy with his enjoyment, and it distracts him from inner listening. Fasting is a kind of silence and concentration. Later on in this teaching R. Nachman states, that the pleasure that a person derives from food is an act of drawing from behind holiness. In other words, man's pleasure and enjoyment is connected with a Supreme Source, but this source is the "leftovers of holiness" – the leftover light that deviated (spilled over) from the vessels and brought about their shattering. The pleasure in eating is a revelation of light, just as involvement in philosophy is a revelation of light. What is common to both is that they involve a deviation, an uncontrolled use that ultimately causes a shattering, and this shattering is the loss of control that allows the light to be scattered even to undesirable places – like the shells – and a bestowing of independent and tangible power on things that should not have that power. The pleasure of eating, according to R. Nachman, gives an independent significance to food itself. The pleasure of eating brings about the ability to distinguish between tasty food and food that is not particularly appetizing, between sweet and bitter, between sharp and sour. And these give independent existence to every food in its own right, such that it starts to be defined by its garments; the garment becomes the essence and the shell becomes the content. Fasting is an act of contraction, in which man withdraws and retreats. He diminishes the light and creates an empty space, allowing for the recreation of all the worlds through the power of man's speech – this time in the proper measure and proportions.
Another principle, similar to charity, can likewise help one acquire the ability to use speech to gather up sparks.
"For the essential difference between man and animals is through speech, which is the definition of man, who is called "medaber" (speaker), reflecting the pasuk, "Who has given a mouth to man." And the essence of the difference is the enunciation of speech, i.e., that man makes the whistling and the voice into an enunciation of letters and speech. For animals and birds also have "voices" and produce noises, but they have no enunciation of letters and speech. This is the definition of man, who is able to enunciate speech.
One reaches the level of the definition of man through tzeddaka, as it is written in the Holy Zohar. Through tzeddaka one becomes included in the category of man, which is defined by speech. This is the meaning of "in your mouth" – this refers to tzeddaka, for it is through tzeddaka that the mouth – i.e., speech – is formed, and this is the definition of man, reflecting the pasuk, "Who has given a mouth to man." For the essence of tzeddaka comes through trust – as expressed in, "Trust in Hashem and perform good." For if a person has no trust, he cannot perform tzeddaka properly, for he fears that he will come to lack that which he gives to tzeddaka. Therefore, the essence of tzeddaka is trust that one trusts in Hashem that he will not lose, nor will he lack anything because of his tzeddaka, for the blessed God will bless him because of this. It is thus trust, and the intellectual move that it entails, that one performs tzeddaka, and it is through this that speech is created…" (Likutei Moharan Kama 225)
Tzeddaka that flows from trust in Hashem is similar in nature to fasting, and also to making peace. The act of tzeddaka, endangering one's financial security, is not a pragmatic act. A responsible person saves his money for times of trouble, and does not spend any more than his budget, which is calculated in such a way as not to damage his ability to save and to create a financial cushion for emergencies. Yet – this pragmatism touches on the revealed level of our world. A person who gives tzeddaka out of trust in Hashem does not see before him the check that passes from his hand to the organization or individual to whom he gives. That is only a garment – a garment that covers an abstract ideal: the act of a mitzvah. It is an act of coming closer to Hashem, expressed by the person "casting his burden upon Him." This is the meaning of the act that he performs. This is the inner significance – and how distant this meaning is from the external garment that clothes the act! In this instance it appears to be truly the opposite of the garment. The handing over of the check – from an internal perspective – is a safe investment. It is a reliable deposit, a guarantee that no bank in the world can match.
Once again, the person acquires, via the act recommended by R. Nachman, the ability to deepen his view and to ignore the external reality. He becomes able to narrow his vision and concentrate on the ultimate purpose, without the surrounding reality distracting him. Thus he acquires the ability to speak in such a way as to gather and to penetrate into the depths of reality.
The same principle that underlies all of the above suggestions is also to be found in R. Nachman's teaching on humility:
One cannot merit the kind of speech that will illuminate things for him except through honor. He should see to it that the honor of the blessed God is complete and that his own honor is like nothing before the honor of the blessed God – i.e., through humility and self-effacement. For the essence of speech comes from honor, as it is written (Tehillim 24): "Who is the King of glory?" which means the kingship of the mouth. For when the Torah is brought into deficient speech, into a deficient mouth, then not only do the words of the Torah not create illumination for one, but the Torah itself is vulgarized and darkened by his mouth, as it is written in Yehoshua 1 "Let this Sefer Torah not move (or: "not become material, vulgar" – "lo yamush") from your mouth," echoing the state of "and the darkness was felt (va-yamesh)" (Shemot 10). In other words, let the words of Torah not become material, vulgar and darkened by your mouth. Because by not ensuring that the glory of the blessed God is complete – i.e., by self-aggrandizement, it is impossible to open one's mouth, as it is written (Tehillim 17), "They have become closed, their mouths speak with pride." [This hampered] the act of Levi bar Sisa, who was brought up to the prayer podium but did not have a prophecy because of his pride. (Yerushalmi, Yevamot Chapter 12). Pride is compared to idolatry (Sota 4b), and concerning idolatry it is written, "The idols of their gods shall you burn with fire" (Devarim 7)... But when he is careful to guard Hashem's glory, that it should be complete, and he is lowly and despised in his own eyes, then through this he becomes able to speak illuminating words, as it is written (Yehezkel 43), "the land was illuminated by His glory," and they illuminate his way to teshuva, and he becomes able to attain understanding of Torah and to grasp it in depth." (Likutei Moharan Kama 11:2)
Hashem's kingship leaves no room for anything else, and in order for a person's speech to represent this kingship he must nullify himself before Hashem's glory. Then all his speech will be nothing but glory to Hashem, for the essence of speech comes from glory, as we saw in the previous shiur. A person who learns with humility keeps in mind that his utterances are not his own, but rather they come from Hashem. When he succeeds in this, then the words of Torah illuminate his way, and the Divine bounty that comes through learning indeed showers down upon him.
The following excerpt would seem to summarize within it what we have learned in these past shiurim:
The letters are completed through faith, as it is written, "Then I shall make all the nations into a clear language…" In other words, through faith, which entails "All of them calling in Hashem's Name" I shall make them "a clear language," the completion (perfection) of speech. Completion of the letters is a reflection of the purpose of all of Creation, for all the worlds were created through the letters. The completion of the letters is the "yud," which represents the World to Come, which is created by means of the "yud," since the "yud" is the final point that completes the image of each letter. For when the last point required to complete the image of the letter is missing, then the letter can certainly not be complete, and it has no image. And letters are of kingship and leadership, reflecting the expression "kingship of the mouth," for the essence of leadership is through speech. For it is impossible to lead and to command except through speech. Thus we find that by means of completion of the letters of faith that are in kingship, the tzaddikim know the ultimate purpose of the World to Come. The tzaddikim who lead the world are like the "tzaddik who rules" – they hold the trait of kingship, and by means of their hold on kingship they also hold the letters that it contains, and by holding the complete letters they hold the purpose – which is the completion of the letters, which is represented by the "yud," which in turn represents the World to Come. This represents the teaching, "In all your ways – know Him" – that a person may attain the ultimate Purpose in every thing, for each thing was created through letters, and in each letter there is completion – i.e., the final point, which is the "yud," representing the World to Come, which is the purpose (end) that completes the image of the letter." (Likutei Moharan 18:6)
The letters, which are the building blocks of the world, faith,which brings about the completion of the letters "that all will call in the Name of Hashem," the "yud;" which represents thought, the final point, the root of all the letters, the tzaddik, who holds the trait of kingship – which is the speech by means of which he leads the world, and the ultimate purpose of every thing that was created with letters and that is completed by the final point, and which in turn is the "yud," representing the World to Come – all of these together comprise the teaching of R. Nachman, who presents us with a complete image that reflects the World to Come.