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Rav Nachman Shiur 29: The Niggun (IV) ֠"Someone Skillful At Playing

By: Rav Itamar Eldar



In our previous shiur, we noted the importance of "someone skillful at playing," who is able to subdue the imaginative faculty and extract the good spirit from the evil one.

We saw that King David, about whom this expression was used, was endowed with this special talent. We shall continue with teaching no. 54 from the place where we left off:







We see then that by playing a musical instrument with his hand, a person thereby extracts the good ru'ach from the evil ru'ach, this being the aspect of the ru'ach of prophecy, as explained above. All this is the aspect of subduing the imagination, which is the aspect of an evil ru'ach, that would blemish and confound the aspect of the good ru'ach, the ru'ach of prophecy. [And the imagination] is subdued and eliminated by means of joy, which comes from the one who plays music with the hand, as explained above. For the main strengthening of the imagination is by means of depression, because the imagination is the aspect of a depressed ru'ach/a gloomy ru'ach/an evil ru'ach, which confounds the good ru'ach/the ru'ach of prophecy, this being the aspect of memory/attaching one's thoughts to the world-to-come, which was mentioned above.

It is therefore impossible to receive the ru'ach of prophecy/Divine ru'ach except by means of joy, which is the aspect of playing music with the hand, as in: "As the musician played, the hand of God came upon him," the aspect of "his mind will play, and it will be good for you," as explained above.

Now this musician has to be "skilled at playing," as explained above. Also the instrument on which he plays has to be whole, so that the ru'ach, which is a mixture of good and evil, does not emerge all at once. This is why he must be "skillful at playing," and why the instrument he plays must be whole, so that he can properly extract and direct the music to perfection. This corresponds to extracting the goodru'ach, which is the aspect of joy/the ru'ach of prophecy, from the ru'ach of depression/the ru'ach of evil, as explained above. For when the instrument is not whole, or he is not skilled at playing and so does not know how to raise and lower his hand in order to extract the good ru'ach from the evil ru'ach, it is said of him (Mishlei29:11): "A fool vents all his ru'ach" – i.e., gives out all the ru'ach at one time, so that the music is certainly not built up.

This is because the essential beauty of the music is achieved through the extraction of the ru'ach [this is the air from which the sound comes, as is known to those skilled in music]. In other words, the aspect of music comes essentially through the extracting of the good ru'ach from the evil ru'ach. But when he brings out the ru'achall at once, it comes out as it is: a mixture of good and evil. As a result, the music and joy are not built up, and the imagination is not subdued.

This corresponds to "His ru'ach goes out; he returns to his adama (dust)" (Tehilim146:4). To his aDaMa" is the aspect of the meDaMe. In other words, when all theru'ach comes out, he returns and goes back to the imagination. This is because he has not subdued the imagination, since he is unable to gather and extract the goodru'ach, so that all the ru'ach, which is a mixture of good and evil, comes out.

However, if he has the aspect of the hand that gathers and extracts the aspect of the good ru'ach from the evil ru'ach, he can then subdue the imagination, in the aspect of "by the hand of the prophets I have been imagined," as explained above. For the essence of the aspect of prophecy comes from the above mentioned aspect of the hand that extracts the good ru'ach from the evil ru'ach and through this subdues the imagination, which is the aspect of the evil ru'ach mixed with the good ru'ach, as explained above.

This is the explanation of what is written: "Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the ru'ach in his palms? Who has wrapped the waters in a robe? Who has established all afsei (the ends) of the earth?" (Mishlei 30:4).

"Who has gone to heaven and come down?" This is the aspect of the musician. The musician goes up and down in the music, because he has to go up and down on the scale of the strings in line with the song's notes in order to gather the ru'ach. And this is:

"Who has gathered the ru'ach in his palms?" Literally, "in his palms," which are the hands, because the root of the ru'ach is there, as explained above. The essential aspect of the ru'ach is in the hands, because the deposits of the ru'ach are there, as explained above.

"Who has wrapped the waters in a robe?" "Waters" is the aspect of the heart, as it is written (Eikha 2:19): "Pour out your heart like water." In other words. By gathering the ru'ach, he has wrapped the waters in a robe" – he guards the heart so that the imagination does not rule over it. And this is:

"Who has established all afsei of the earth?" Through this he elevates the aspect of the feet that is enclothed in the world. "Afsei" is the aspect of the feet, as it is written (Yechezkel 47:3): "They led me [through the water]; the water was afsayim (ankle-deep)."

For by playing music with the hand, as mentioned above, the imagination is subdued. Then he merits memory, which is the aspect of his knowing how to understand all the hints that are in each thing in the world. These [hints] are the aspect of the vitality of Godliness, the aspect of the feet of holiness that are enclothed in all that exists in the world, as explained above. This is the explanation of "Who has established the ends of the earth?" – he elevates and establishes the feet of holiness that are enclothed in the world, as explained above. (Likutei Moharan Kama 54, 6)

In this teaching, R. Nachman emphasizes two additional points that we have not dealt with before. The first is joy. According to R. Nachman, the imaginative faculty grows in strength through sadness, depression and the evil spirit, whereas the only way to achieve prophecy is by way of joy, which is "the aspect of playing music with the hand."[1]

The second point relates to the wholeness of the musical instrument and its player. Time and time again, R. Nachman emphasizes the importance of the wholeness of the instrument and the skill of the musician.

NIGGUN OF JOY

In order to understand these two points, we must first examine one of R. Nachman's well-known teachings which we shall soon have the opportunity to study within its wider context. For now we shall focus on one point that is relevant to our discussion:







The same applies with regard to himself. A person has to judge himself favorably and find in himself some remaining good point, in order to give himself the strength to avoid falling completely, God forbid. On the contrary, he will revive himself and bring joy to his soul with the little bit of good he finds in himself – i.e., that once in his life he merited doing a mitzva or good deed.

Likewise, he must go on searching until he finds in himself yet another good thing. And although this good thing too is mixed with much impurity, still, he must extract some good point from there as well. Indeed he must go on searching and gathering further good points.

And it is through this that melodies are made. As explained elsewhere, the aspect of playing a musical instrument is the aspect of gathering the good ru'ach from theru'ach of gloom, depression; see there. [The principle is that music of holiness is extremely lofty, as is known. In essence, music is made through the separation of good from evil; by selecting and gathering the good points from the bad, melodies and songs are created. Study there well.]

Therefore, by not letting himself fall, by reviving himself by searching and seeking until he finds in himself some good points, gathering and separating those good points from the evil and impurity within him – through this melodies are made, as explained above. Then, he is able to pray and sing and give praise to God.

For it is known that when a person becomes depressed over his gross physicality and evil deeds, and he sees how very distant he truly is from holiness, it generally makes him completely incapable of praying. He cannot even open his mouth at all, due to the magnitude of the depression, sadness and heaviness that come over him when he sees how exceedingly distant he is from God.

However, if he revives himself by means of the aformentioned suggestion: that is, although he knows within himself that he committed evil deeds and numerous sins, and that he is exceedingly distant from God, yet he nevertheless searches and seeks until he finds some remaining good points in himself, as explained above, and he brings himself vitality and joy through this. (Likutei Moharan Kama 282)

In this teaching, R. Nachman expounds the verse (Tehilim 104:33): "I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing to God be'odi (with the little I have left)." He instructs every individual to judge his neighbor favorably. As we have already mentioned, we shall try to delve more deeply into the meaning of this law in future shiurim. R. Nachman's argument here is that just as a person must judge his neighbor favorably, so must he act also in relationship to himself.

R. Nachman stresses the psychological state that characterizes a person who has sinned - the sadness, melancholy and broken spirit that rule the person and prevent him from praying and serving God. The solution most urgently needed is the removal of that depressing and paralyzing spirit. This, argues R. Nachman, can be done by finding some point of merit in that person's actions, in which he now finds nothing but reason for condemnation. Even when impure motivations have been incorporated into a person's actions, so that they are not clean of alien considerations, it cannot be that they contain not a single point of merit, some positive point that sets the whole process in motion. Great wisdom is required, asserts R. Nachman, to identify that point and extract it from all the evil points that surround it.

Once again we are dealing with the ability to clarify and select. When a person examines himself or another person and sees only bruises and no signs of health, he must search more carefully until he finds some concealed good point and then focus upon it. He must view it as if it comprised the entire picture; he must rescue it from the mire and rejoice in it. This, according to R. Nachman, is the meaning of "I will sing to God be'odi" - with that very od [additional element] that is left in me. It is that very point that is not negative that restores color to the face, a smile to the lips, joy to the heart, and as a result, the song to God.

Joy, according to R. Nachman, is a necessary condition for rising towards God. Sadness is a paralyzing and depressing force. Joy, in contrast, is a motivating force that streams adrenaline into the blood and invigorates a person.[2] Once again, R. Nachman demonstrates that this joy is acquired through a person's ability to extract the good ru'ach from the evil one.

R. Nachman emphasizes here as well that "the music of holiness" comes from a very lofty place, and inasmuch as it selects and exposes the good ru'ach, the positive point, it provides joy that elevates man and allows him to serve God.[3]

The ability to look at a person and from among all his deficiencies draw out what is positive is the ability to play music. It is the same selection of the good ru'ach from the evil ru'ach that we saw in the previous shiur. We are talking about the ability to focus on the positive aspects of the world, this ability being the skill of playing a musical instrument that we find in King David. For this reason, it was the sole cure for King Shaul who was terrified by an evil spirit that became mixed up in his good spirit. Only David was able to see the deficiencies, but nevertheless play, and thus try to extract the good from the evil.

It should be noted that R. Nachman, in his usual manner, tries to provide a simple, physical phenomenon with a deep spiritual explanation. As we shall immediately see, R. Nachman writes the following with a wounded heart:







Before this I had stood before him[4] on the day before Rosh Chodesh Av on a Sunday towards evening when people stop eating meat. He felt then very intimidated. He was lying on his bed, very quietly, thinking his thoughts. And I stood before him trembling and marveling, standing then before him for several hours.

Then he related this matter to me, saying: "This Shabbat I cried very much before God, may He be blessed – why in everything that I wish to do, am I forced to do it with self-sacrifice?" (That is, everything that must be done in the service of God is very difficult and onerous, and he can only do it with real self-sacrifice.)

And he related that every day when he rises in the morning and wishes to pray, he is totally unable to open his mouth, and he has nothing with which to revive himself. And then he tries at least to remember a certain melody in order to revive himself with it, and this too is withheld from him, because he cannot remember any melody, to the point that he has no idea how to stand up and pray. But nevertheless he stands up to pray. Then when he is in the middle of prayer, he remembers a certain melody that comes to him by itself. (Chayei Moharan, Talks that Relate to the Teachings, 10)

It should be noted that in this personal anecdote, R. Nachman relates twice to song. On the one hand, R. Nachman tries to remember a song in order to liberate himself from distress and succeed to pray. On the other hand, after he fails in this attempt, he nevertheless begins to pray, and the song comes to him by itself.

Melody then is both a means and also the result. On the one hand, it is the search for the positive point, the attempt to find that gladdening point. On the other hand, it is also the lack that is filled in, the point that was once missing, but is now full. As we saw in the previous shiurim, song "remembers and reminds." This duality accompanies R. Nachman whenever he relates to song.

R. Nachman knows from experience that oftentimes, song opens a window, creating an atmosphere that permits prayer. Again, in his usual manner, R. Nachman does not content himself with a simple explanation that relates to atmosphere and scenery. We are dealing with a flow of vitality, or in this case, with an uncovering of the inner vitality found in man. Song allows for the good to be extracted from the evil. It makes a person forget evil, and allows him to cling to the good, the pleasant, and that which brings joy.

According to R. Nachman, we are dealing here not with an external act, but with the hidden inner truth that becomes exposed through song. Joy cannot be false! If a song succeeds in bringing joy, it means that it has exposed the inner point that in and of itself is truly gladdening.

This point is expressed even more sharply in the following teaching:







It is a great mitzvah always to rejoice and acquire the strength to push off sadness and melancholy with all one's might. All the illnesses that befall a person, all of them come only as a result of flawed joy.

For there are ten types of music that have the aspect of joy, as it is written: "Upon an instrument of ten strings… For You have gladdened me through Your work" (Tehilim92:3-4). And these ten types of music come in ten types of heartbeats, and they revive them. Therefore when there is a flaw and defect in the joy, which is the aspect of the ten types of music, illnesses come then from the ten types of heartbeats, which become defective through the defects of the ten types of music, which is joy, as was explained above.

For all types of illnesses are included in the ten types of heartbeats, and similarly all types of music are included in the ten types of music, and corresponding to the defect in joy and music, so come the illnesses, as was explained above. The wise men among the physicians spoke about this atlength, that all illnesses result from melancholy and sadness, and joy is the great healer.

In the future, joy will grow greatly. Therefore, our Rabbis, of blessed memory, stated (YerushalmiSukka, chapter Lulav va-AravaMidrash RabbaSheminiparasha 11): "In the future, the Holy One, blessed be He, will be the leader of the chorus (rosh chole) for the tzadikim." That is, He will do a dance (machol) for the tzadikim, and He, may He be blessed, will be at the head of the sick person (rosh chole), for theShekhina [rests] above the head of the sick person, as our Rabbis, of blessed memory, have expounded (Nedarim 40). As it says: "The Lord strengthens him on the bed of sickness" (Tehilim 41:4). For a sick person has no vitality, only theShekhina can revive him. And in the future, by way of joy, all illnesses will be cured, as was explained above. Then God, may He be blessed, will be the at the head of the sick person (chole), that is, the head of the dance (machol), as stated above. For joy is the aspect of the repair of the sick person, as was explained above. This is why rejoicing and dancing are called chole, as stated above, for they repair illnesses, as was explained above. (Likutei Moharan Tinyana 24)

We have already seen that the absence of the ten types of song creates a deficiency in the world. The big question is: Do I focus on the deficiency and sink into sadness? Or perhaps I play music and reveal the inner point that restores vitality to the deficiency?

The illnesses found in the world, asserts R. Nachman, are an expression of a flaw in the song, or in other words, a flaw in the vital spirit that blows in the world.

When a person plays music for a sick person, he appears to ignore his deficiency. A sick person needs a cure, not a song! R. Nachman, however, argues that a cure, even if it has a place, involves occupation with evil, deficiency and that which is missing. A person looks at himself, sees his flaws and tries to repair them. Even if he adopts a constructive attitude, he is still preoccupied with his faults, and this preoccupation invites sadness, melancholy and gloom. R. Nachman proposes that a person look at himself and at his neighbor in a selective manner. True, he has faults, he has deficiencies. True, the sick person lying before him needs to be treated with drugs, and perhaps even more than that. "Someone skillful at playing," however, tries to disregard all this. Music involves looking at the healthy aspect of the patient. A dialogue is opened with that part of the sick person which is healthy, positive and in repair, even if it is hidden and almost invisible. This is where the skillful musician turns!

When a person reaches that point, it comes to life and invigorates him. The patient is no longer conscious of his illness, and this is already half the cure.[5] The confrontation with physical illness in teaching no. 24, and the confrontation with spiritual illness in teaching no. 282, is indirect. In the end, however, it enables a person to repair the defect through the addition of good:







For it is certainly right that a person should feel ever-increasing joy over every good point stemming from the holiness of Israel that he still finds in himself. Then, when he revives himself and brings himself to joy through this, as was explained above, he is then able to pray, sing and give praise to God.

This is the aspect of "I will sing to God be'odi (with the little I have left)" (Tehilim1o4:33). Specifically, be'ODi – i.e., by means of my OD that I find in myself, the aspect of "In yet a little bit the wicked man is not," as was explained above. By means of this point I am able to sing and give praise to God, as explained above. And this is "I will sing." Specifically, "I will sing" – i.e., the songs and melodies that are made by gathering the good points, as was explained above. (Likutei Moharan Kama282)[6]

"SKILLFUL AT PLAYING"

The second point raised by R. Nachman in teaching no. 54 relates to the wholeness of the musical instrument and its player. This ability, to stand before a sick person and break out in joyous song, or alternatively, to stand before a person full of flaws and spiritual deficiencies, and see the good in him, was not given to everybody. Thus writes R. Nachman in the continuation of teaching 282:







Know, too, that someone who is capable of making these melodies – i.e., gathering the good points that are to be found in each Jew, even a Jewish sinner, as explained above, - he can lead the communal prayers. For one who leads the communal prayers is called the messenger of the people; he must be sent by all the people – i.e., he must gather every good point that is to be found in each of the congregants. All these good points are merged in him, so that when he stands up to pray, it is with all this good. This is the meaning of "messenger of the people." Thus, he must have within him this exalted aspect, as a result of which all the points are drawn to him and become merged within him.

And someone who can make the aforementioned melodies – i.e., he is capable of judging all people favorably, even the rabble and the wicked, because he persistently searches and seeks to find the good points in all of them, through which melodies are made, as explained above – this tzadik, since he is on this level, is capable of being the cantor and messenger of the people. That is, he can lead the communal prayers, because he has within him this aspect, which is a necessary requirement to be a truly fitting messenger of the people. For he must possess the aspect whereby all the good points are drawn to him and are merged within him, so that he is capable of gathering all the good points that are to be found in each Jew, even a Jewish sinner, as explained above.

Know, too, that in each and every generation there is a shepherd who is the aspect of Moshe, the "faithful shepherd." This shepherd makes a sanctuary.

And know the young schoolchildren receive the undefiled breath of their mouths from this sanctuary. Therefore, when a young child first begins to read and enter the study of Torah, he begins with "Vayikra (And He called) to Moshe" (Vayikra 1:1) – [the wordVayikra] is written with a small alef – because [the Book of] Vayikra speaks of the completion of the Sanctuary's erection. It was then that God called to Moshe and began speaking to him from the Sanctuary. This is why the young children begin from there, because it is from there that they receive the breath of their mouths, as explained above, and from there they begin to read and enter into Torah study.

And know, all the tzadikim of the generation, without exception, are the aspect of a shepherd. For within each one of them is an aspect of Moshe, and each one of them, in his own aspect, makes an aspect of a sanctuary, from which the young children receive the breath of their mouths, as explained above. And each [tzadik], commensurate with his aspect – the aspect of the sanctuary that he makes – likewise has young children who receive from there. Thus it is that every tzadik of the generation, without exception, has a specific number of children who receive the breath of their mouths from him; each [tzadik] commensurate with his aspect, as explained above.

This is the aspect of what our Sages, of blessed memory, said: Young children are snatched away because of the sin of the generation, as it is said (Shir ha-Shirim 1:8): "And graze your young goats by the shepherds' MiSHKaNot (tents)" – [the young children] mitMaSHKeNin (are taken as surety) for the shepherds (Shabbat 33b).

This is the explanation of "by the shepherds' tents." They receive the breath of their mouths from the aspect of the mishkanot of the shepherds – i.e., the tzadikim of the generation, each of whom makes a mishkan (sanctuary), as explained above.

However, to know all this – i.e., to know of each and every tzadik, which are the young children who relate to him and how much they receive from him, and to know all the aspects involved in this and the generations that will come from them to the very end – know, one who can make the aforementioned melodies can know all this.

And this is the meaning of what our Sages, of blessed memory, said in the Mishna: In truth, they said, the chazan sees where the young children are reading (Shabbat11a). "The chazan" – i.e., one who can make the aforementioned melodies – he can be the cantor, the messenger of the people, leader of the communal prayers, as explained above. He sees and knows "where the young children are reading" – i.e., from which tzadik they receive the breath of their mouths, through whom they read and enter into the study of Torah, as explained above. (Likutei Moharan Kama 282)

Not everyone is able to gird his loins and accept the responsibility imposed by the role of the musician.

As we have already seen in Shiur no. 26, here too R. Nachman draws a connection between the ability to play music and the prayer leader. The prophet, the chazan, and the musician all derive their nourishment from the same source, and perform essentially the same action. If in the previous shiur, in teaching no. 54, R. Nachman focused on prophecy, here he focuses on the prayer leader, the chazan. The chazan must collect all the good points found among all the members of the congregation, and merge all those good points within himself. R. Nachman even raises the necessary conditions for a prayer leader, that he must have the elevated aspect of "all the good points being drawn to him."

Once again, R. Nachman draws a connection between the sensible world and the spiritual ideal. According to R. Nachman, a prayer leader who can sweep the entire congregation off their feet with his melodies will succeed in extracting the good point from each of the congregants so that it can be drawn to his melody. The prayer leader's melody is like a "collection" of good points that he gathers together from the entire congregation. His melody must be sufficiently attractive, musically and in its inner essence, so that the connection remain fast. The congregation of worshippers cling to the prayer leader when they feel that he is truly their messenger. This feeling requires that the chazan succeed in touching and exposing the inner point that is yearning for God. When he succeeds, that point is included in his prayer, and his prayer is that of the congregation.

The possibility of containing all the inner points of each and every congregant requires a two-fold skill.

R. Nachman defines the first skill in teaching no. 54 – the ability of selection. Some musicians release all the ru'ach/air at once, without there being any process of selection.








For when the instrument is not whole, or he is not skilled at playing and so does not know how to raise and lower his hand in order to extract the good ru'ach from the evil ru'ach, it is said of him (Mishlei 29:11), "A fool vents all his ru'ach" – i.e., he gives out all the ru'ach at one time, so that the music is certainly not built up.

This is because the essential beauty of the music is achieved through the extraction of the ru'ach [this is the air from which the sound comes, as is known to those skilled in music]. In other words, the aspect of music comes essentially through the extracting of the good ru'ach from the evil ru'ach. But when he brings out the ru'achall at once, it comes out as it is: a mixture of good and evil. As a result, the music and joy are not built up, and the imagination is not subdued.

This corresponds to "His ru'ach goes out; he returns to his adama (dust)" (Tehilim146:4). To his aDaMa" is the aspect of the meDaMe. In other words, when all theru'ach comes out, he returns and goes back to the imagination. This is because he has not subdued the imagination, since he is unable to gather and extract the goodru'ach, so that all the ru'ach, which is a mixture of good and evil, comes out.

The false notes heard in the music played by someone who does not know how to select theru'ach, which holes to block and which to open, result from a mixture of the good and the evil that go out into the world without any selection. The spiritual expression of off-key music is the lack of submission of the imaginative faculty. This music casts back the musician and his audience to the imaginative faculty, to bestiality, to passions and desires. In my humble opinion, this is one of the most meaningful statements regarding song and music.

There are musicians, and perhaps also musical instruments, that do not elevate a person with their music or expose the positive points within him. Rather, they do just the opposite. This is the power of music for good and for evil. We can attend two different weddings, one day after the next, see the same people dancing, hear the same words and the same tunes, but with a different band. And the difference between the dances is like heaven and earth. In the one situation, a dance where the heavenly angels ride on the shoulders of the merrymakers, while in the other, a dance reminiscent of those who danced around the golden calf overcome by idolatrous and lascivious passions. Who cast them down from the top of the mountain? What changed between "And they beheld God, and did eat and drink" (Shemot 24:11) and "And the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to disport themselves" (Shemot 32:6)? The musician!

The same tune, the same words, at times even the same instruments, but a different spirit. A spirit in which good and bad are mixed together, a spirit that is not clarified, that is not directed towards the place that elevates a person above his deficiencies, but rather casts him down to them.







Through the melody, it is evident whether a person accepted upon himself the Torah. A sign: "They bore it (yisa'u) on their shoulders" (Bamidbar 7:9). And our Rabbis, of blessed memory, expounded (Eruvin 11): "The word yisa'u alludes to song, as it is stated: "Raise the chorus (se'u), sound the drum" (Tehilim 81:3). This verse was stated regarding the carrying of the descendants of Kehat, who carried the [Holy] Ark upon their shoulders, that is the aspect of the burden of Torah. (Likutei Moharan Tinyana 31)[7]

A discerning person whose heart is attentive to the inner essence of a song knows whether or not the musician is a God-fearing person. For, as we see, we are not dealing with technical skill alone. The direction in which the music turns reflects the spiritual standing of the musician, and so the music serves as an indication and reflection of his ambitions, his desires, and his spirit.

The sweeping power of a song, that reaches the bestial imaginative faculty, can subdue the imagination and elevate it to the level of prophecy. But it can also cast it down and leave it among the drum beats and the bass tempo, which dictate the rate of the flow of blood, exciting the passions and lusts of the dancer.

As we saw in the previous shiur, he who listens to a song and dances to its music entrusts his spirit into the hands of the skillful musician, indeed, into the hands of him who plays the life of every living thing and the spirit of all human flesh. This trust can be for kindness or it can lead to the rod. This is responsibility of the highest order, for we are dealing with the dancer's total trust and self-effacement before the musician. Indeed, this is the way R. Nachman understood the matter:







He said: "The world has not yet tasted anything of me. If they would hear only one of my teachings together with its melody and dance, they would all efface themselves entirely." That is, the entire world, even the beasts and the grass and everything that exists in the world, everything would efface themselves with the yearnings of the soul because of the great delight that is exceedingly wondrous and extreme.

This may be understood as follows: Someone who knows how to play music and dance - someone who plays music, it is the nature of music to draw to it the listener's soul which becomes effaced with the soul's yearnings towards the music's movements, according to each movement of the music, in accordance with the power of that movement to break and stir the soul, and draw it to it. All the more so, one who knows how to dance in such a way that the dance corresponds exactly to the movement of the music. For every organ can move in corto the movements of the music. At this note, a person must shake his head or bend himself over, and similarly with the other organs and the legs, one must move his body and feet, in perfect correspondence with the movements of the music. And especially one who plays a melody that has words, a song that organizes the words together with the movement of the music, where the song and the words correspond to the music, the rhythm of the song corresponding exactly to the music. Even the dance corresponds exactly, in accordance with the music and rhythm of the song, for they are all one.

When people merit to hear such music - a melody and words and a dance like this where all correspond to each other in perfect correspondence, for the words, namely, the song, and the melody, and the dance are all really one - when people merit to hear this, they actually efface themselves with the soul's yearning because of the great intensity of the wonderful delight.

This delight is greater that all [other] delights, and there is no delight greater than it. One who has not tasted of it knows nothing about delight. Fortunate is the eye who has seen this, for even in the world-to-come, not everybody merits to see and hear; only one who has prepared for Shabbat, etc.

Those who stand around him cannot know what to do. But they have the soul's yearning and wondrous longing from the intensity of the delight, and he stands in the middle and does as was explained above. (Understand this well, for it cannot be explained in writing. Someone who knows how to play music and dance can hear a little in his heart of the aforementioned intense delight and yearning with the yearnings of the soul to the point that they efface themselves entirely. Understand this.)

Also someone who is near and close – all these movements occur on their own, as is apparent to the senses; whoever is closer to the music and dance and understands more, all the movements of the music and dance are performed because of the great intensity of the delight. As it is apparent to the senses, that when a person hears music and dancing, because of the delight which draws him to the music, he also copies those movements, and he also plays and dances a little, for the song and dance movements occur on their own. The same applies with respect to coming close to holiness, whatever is closer to Torah, music and dance, all the holy movements of all these things occur on their own. (Chayei Moharan, His Torah and Holy Books, I, 340)

R. Nachman is fully aware of the sweeping power of music, which is so contagious, and before which nobody can remain indifferent. It is precisely this power, which takes control of a person and draws him into the movement of the music, which is the ability, on the one hand, to elevate a person to total communion, while on the other hand, to cast him down to the lowest depths of She'ol. This is the responsibility, according to R. Nachman, that falls on the musician's shoulders. Where does he take the spirit? To where does he direct it? What is his objective and what is his goal?

This is one skill demanded of the musician - the ability to touch the positive notes of a person's soul, to extract from him the good and the holy, and disregard the evil and base. This ability, however, is not sufficient. The musician must have another virtue as well.

The musician must possess inner modesty and self-effacement towards his audience, for if not, there is no room within the prayer leader[8] to contain them all.

We have spoken in the past about the aspect of Malkhut – that has nothing of itself, but contains everything. The capacity to contain everything requires that you possess nothing of your own. This is the aspect of Malkhut, the aspect of Moshe Rabbenu, the most modest of all men. Since his deepest wish was "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets" (Bamidbar 11:29), he was able to contain within him the souls of all of Israel. So too David, king of Israel, who was the messenger of all of Israel and established the kingdom – malkhut that has nothing of itself, but contains everything.

At the end of the teaching, R. Nachman compares the tzadik, the community's messenger, to a shepherd. The breath of the mouths of the young schoolchildren comes to them from the sanctuary built by the shepherd. The breath of the mouths of the undefiled schoolchildren constitute the pure channel, through which Divine vitality enters the world, and from which the spiritual story of the world is constructed.[9] And it is from the tzadik, in his aspect of shepherd, that the young schoolchildren draw the breath of their mouths.

The metaphor of shepherd contains within it the essential absurdity of Malkhut, which is also the aspect of the tzadik, as well as the prayer leader. On the one hand, the shepherd is a shepherd; he leads and directs his flock. We are dealing with a leader who marches at the head of his camp. On the other hand, the shepherd goes out after his sheep. He is not there for his own sake, and the sheep are not there for the shepherd. The shepherd is there for the sake of his flock. The ability to lead his sheep, on the one hand, and to follow them, on the other, is the complex ability of the king to lead his people but yet be there for them. This is the aspect of Malkhut, which at the beginning has nothing of itself, but in the end contains everyone and everything.

And from the song of the grass comes the song of the shepherd

This idea also finds expression in the wonderful and spiritually uplifting words of R. Nachman that follow:







Know, that our father Ya'akov, when he sent his sons – the ten tribes – to Yosef, sent with them the melody of Eretz Israel. This is the esoteric meaning of "Take of zimrat(the best fruits) in the land in your vessels" (Bereishit 43:11), having the aspect of the song (zemer) and melody that he sent to Yosef through them. As Rashi explains:Mizimrat – in the sense of zemer (song). For you should know that each and every shepherd has a special melody according to the grass and the place where he grazes [his flock], for each and every animal has a special grass that it must eat. He also doesn't always graze in the same place. According to the grass and the place where he grazes, so too he has a melody… And from the song of [each blade of] grass comes the song of the shepherd. This is the esoteric meaning of what is written: "And Ada bore Yaval; he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. And his brother's name was Yuval; he was the father of all such as handle the lyre and pipe" (Bereishit 4:20-21). For as soon as there was a shepherd in the world, there were [also] musical instruments, as stated above. For this reason, King David, may he rest in peace, who was skillful at playing (Shemuel 16:16), was also a shepherd, as stated above. (We also find that all the patriarchs were shepherds.) This is the aspect of: "From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs" (Yeshaya 24:16), that is, that songs and melodies go forth from the uttermost part of the earth, for through the grass that grows in the earth melodies are formed, as stated above. And because the shepherd knows how to play music, he gives power to the grass, and then the animals have what to eat. This is the aspect of: "The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the zamir (singing bird) is come" (Shir ha-Shirim 2:12). That is, the flowers appear on the earth because of the song (zemer) and melody connected to them, as stated above. Through the song and melody that the shepherd knows, he gives power to the grass, and there is pasture for the animals. The music is also good for the shepherd himself. Since the shepherd is always among the animals, the possibility exists that they will pull him down from the aspect of the spirit of man to the bestial spirit, to the point that the shepherd will graze himself, as in: "And the brothers went to graze their father's flock" (Bereishit 37:12). And Rashi explains that they went to graze themselves. And they were saved by a melody, because a melody involves a clarification of the spirit, that the human spirit is clarififrom the bestial spirit, as in: "Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upwards, and the spirit of the beast goes downwards to the earth" (Kohelet 3:21). For this is the essence of a melody, to gather and select the good spirit, as explained elsewhere. Therefore, through the melody, one is saved from the spirit of the beast, for the human spirit is clarified from the bestial spirit through the melody, as stated above. There are many distinctions between melodies, for there is a whole melody, and there is a melody composed of several parts, which can be divided into parts. Know that the king has the whole melody in its entirety. But the ministers only have a certain part of the melody, each according to his position. Therefore, Daniel said to Nevuchadnetzar: "You are a tree" (Daniel 4), having food for all. For Nevuchadnetzar who was king and had the entire melody, through him all food is drawn, for food is drawn through a melody, as stated above. Therefore our father Ya'akov, even though he did not know at the time that he was Yosef, but only as the tribes reported to him Yosef's practices, sent him a melody that pertains to a minister like him, as he heard from his sons about his ways and practices. For Ya'akov wished to achieve what he needed through the melody; he, therefore, sent him the melody of Eretz Israel. This is what he said to his sons: "Take of zimrat (the best fruits) in the land in your vessels," that is, they should take in their vessels the aspect of the melody, as stated above, which is the aspect of "zimrat of the land," as stated above. "And carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, gum, ladanum, nuts, and almonds" (Bereishit 43:11) – the aspect of the rhythms and measures of the music, for a melody is made of the produce of the earth, as stated above. (Likutei Moharan Tinyana 63)

"Every shepherd has a special melody," declares R. Nachman. At first glance, this statement emphasizes the unique quality of each and every shepherd. But R. Nachman immediately clarifies what he means: The shepherd's melody is composed of the songs of the grass which his flock craves.[10] The shepherd knows which grass each animal needs, and decides where to graze according to the needs of his animals. When the shepherd arrives at a particular place, he sings the songs of all the blades of grass found in that place, and through his song, he causes the grass to grow and there is food for his animals.

The song of the grass constitutes the vitality of the world; this vitality is rich and diverse.[11] This vitality beats in the world, and the people living under their leader require, each according to his personal needs and desires, a particular vitality, a particular idea that is appropriate for him, and a particular type of Divine service, each according to his own aspect.

It is the shepherd's role to play the melody that is composed of the deficiencies of his flock. Essentially, he is saying to us, "Know that each shepherd does not have his own melody." The song of the grass, the song of the grass which his flock craves, is the song of the shepherd!

Like the chazan, the shepherd knows how to gather the good points in each and every individual, and make from them a new song that causes the vitality of the world to grow. This vitality then fills those who hear the shepherd with a new spirit. The shepherd's song is dynamic; it changes according to the rhythm of the heartbeats of his flock: "He also doesn't always graze in the same place." This is the aspect of: "Go your way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed your kids besides the shepherds' tents" (Shir ha-Shirim 1:8). A leader's greatness lies in his ability to be dynamic. In his ability to be attentive to the needs of his people, to listen to them and to sing a new song every day and every hour. This ability is based on humility, on the leader's being prepared to waive his own melody and be built up by the community which he comes to lead.

When the shepherd follows in the footsteps of his flock, and plays their melody, the flock dances after the shepherd and cleaves to him.







He said: "My place is nowhere but Eretz Israel; wherever I go, I am going only to Eretz Israel. For the time, I tend [my flock] in Breslov, and the like." Before he undertook the aforementioned journey, he clapped his hands in joy, and said: "Today I am starting something new." Then he said: "We are like someone who plays a musical instrument, and the world dances, and to someone who doesn't understand and hear the melody, it is astonishing why they are running after him and why they are dancing. So too it is astonishing to the world why you run after me. When I return from my journey, I will be able to play and you will be able to dance. (Chayei Moharan, His Journey to Navoritch 6-7, 156-157).

R. Nachman viewed himself as a shepherd, and his followers as his flock. Thus, he felt himself obligated to learn what are his flock's deficiencies and repair them through his melody. There is, however, a second side to the coin, as follows from the aforementioned teaching.

A leader's preoccupation with his flock, asserts R. Nachman, with all their deficiencies and their needs, is not a simple matter. A leader who holds himself elevated above his people, who plays his noble melody without dirtying his hands with "the amniotic sac and placenta", as did King David, remains "high above the people." Because of this, however, the grass does not grow, and no new vitality enters the world. The shepherd who walks in the footsteps of his flock brings redemption to the world, though he also risks falling down to their level. He does not have a melody of his own serving as a lifesaver to keep his head above water. His melody is the melody of his animals, and the shepherd is liable to become momentarily confused and think that he himself is one of them, warns R. Nachman.

A melody, R. Nachman says once again, involves the removal of the good spirit from the evil one. This requires that one descend to the secret recesses of each and every person's soul, and rescue that good spirit from oblivion. The melody composed from the flock in the mouth of the shepherd demands great self-sacrifice from him. However, the shepherd's ability to remove the good spirit from the evil one and to separate between the good and the evil, is what protects him and keeps him from falling down to the level of the beast.

The ability to play music is the ability to subdue the imaginative faculty, the bestial faculty, and provide it with a spirit of life that turns it into prophecy. We have already seen that a melody reaches the same place as the imaginative faculty; it reaches the bestiality in man, and, therefore, is liable to cast him down, especially when the shepherd-musician is not a true shepherd. However, it also contains the ability and power to distinguish between man and beast – "the preeminence of man over the beast is nothing" (Kohelet 3:19). Touching a melody is touching nothingness, that invisible inner vitality. When a person succeeds in touching that nothingness, he differentiates himself from the beast.

R. Nachman adds in this teaching that the whole melody, that which is composed of several parts, is the whole Divine vitality that gives existence to all the deficiencies found in creation. It is essentially the universal completion of the exile of the Shekhina that created the deficiency.

R. Nachman distinguishes between the king and his ministers. The practical difference between a king and a minister is the difference between responsibility for a particular ministry, matter or population, and overall responsibility. The minister of the interior is responsible for internal matters, while the minister of labor and welfare is responsible for the work and welfare of the kingdom's subjects. The king, however, bears overall responsibility in all matters and regarding all his subjects. While a minister must specialize in the area over which he is responsible, the king must be an expert on all matters. He must know his people's deficiencies in all areas. A true king is a king who knows how to put together the whole melody tcontains the vitality that is to revive his entire people with all their needs. This is the same skill demonstrated by the "son of the maidservant," that we saw at the end of the previous shiur, who knows how to put together the entire world so that it has one whole melody.

This is the aspect of Malkhut, which can contain everything only if it has nothing of itself, as we saw earlier. Such was King David, whose kingship moved from song and praises before God in the chapters of Tehilim, through the supreme and uncompromising might demonstrated in the wars of God on behalf of the kingdom of Israel, and ending with his preoccupation with "the amniotic sac and placenta," with his hands soiled by the blood of his people who wish to raise themselves up from their impurity and bestiality by way of their king.

King David, who was skillful at playing music, did not merit to build the Temple. But his songs and melodies which unite with the song of life of creation in general and of the kingdom of Israel in particular, built the spiritual Temple of Israel, the kingship that continues on towards perfection, that continues on towards redemption until the fulfillment of the prayer: "Joy to Your land, and gladness to Your city, rising strength to David Your servant, a shining light to the son of Yishai, Your chosen one, speedily in our deeds."

FOOTNOTES:

[1] We must consider the next sentence: "All this is the aspect of subduing the imagination, which is the aspect of an evil ru'ach, that would blemish and confound the aspect of the good ru'ach, theru'ach of prophecy." Here R. Nachman presents the imaginative faculty as standing in opposition to prophecy, rather than as a means to its attainment, as we saw in the thinkers cited above. It seems that we should not infer too much from this statement, but still we may understand that the imaginative faculty serves as the basis for both the evil spirit as well as the good spirit, and its submission means removing the evil spirit from it and extracting the good spirit.

[2] The trait of joy constitutes an independent topic of discussion. We find various different attitudes towards joy in Jewish thought. On the one hand, one may relate to joy as yet another human faculty, which may be used in the service of God. Like the other faculties, however, joy too must not be allowed to breach its boundaries, and a balance between the various faculties must be maintained. On the other hand, we find, especially in Chasidic thought, joy as an "absolute value" comprising a necessary condition for Divine service. It is the only channel that paves the way for spiritual elation, and all spiritual service must pass through it. In light of what we have said here, R. Nachman seems to accept the second approach. We shall expand upon this in a separate shiur devoted to teaching no. 282.

[3] The idea that there exists a relationship between prophecy, music, and joy, is old. Thus we find in the Rambam (Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 7:4): "The prophets did not prophesy whenever they pleased, but had to concentrate their minds, resting, joyous and cheerful, and in solitude. For the spirit of prophecy does not descend upon one who is melancholy or indolent, but comes as a result of joyousness. And therefore, the sons of the prophets had before them psaltery, tabret, pipe, and harp (I Shemuel 10:5), and thus sought a manifestation of the prophetic gift. This is expressed in the phrase, "And they were mitnabe'im (ibid.), which means, that they were on the way to prophesy, before they actually did so, as one might say, "That person is becoming great (mitgadel)."

"Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing" (Tehilim 100:2), then, is not just a possible path, but the ideal path for a person to elevate himself to the highest level of standing before God.

[4] R. Natan, the disciple of R. Nachman.

[5] I recently attended a shiur given by the director of the Zikhron Menachem Foundation, which among its other wonderful projects, tries to sweeten the lives of children with cancer. He spoke about the dramatic changes, using strictly medical criteria from blood counts to physical abilities (getting up from a wheel chair), resulting from the joy brought to the children by way of trips, performances, and the like.

[6] "On that Shabbat, he drank a little bit of wine because of a wedding feast as is customary, and he was in great joy, and he danced a lot, almost all day, as mentioned above. And then he leaned himself on R. Yudel and danced, and they then sang a fitting song, stirring up the fear of God, and he danced to the music. For this was his general practice to dance to a melody of awakening and fear. And the melody was familiar to us, and he then said that this melody is a call and proclamation. Through this melody they call them to gather altogether for the wedding. That is, they call all the deceased souls of the holy tzadikim in his family, namely the Ba'al Shem Tov, of blessed memory, and his grandfather, R. Nachman, of blessed memory, and his righteous mother, of blessed memory, that they should all come to the wedding, as is explained in the holyZohar that everyone gathers at the time of a wedding" (Chayei Moharan, The Place where He was Born and Where He Lived, and His Travels, 14, 117).

[7] And similarly Sefer ha-MidotNegina 4.

[8] We follow in the footsteps of R. Nachman's who connected the prophet, the chazan and the musician.

[9] "For there is no comparison between Torah going forth from undefiled breath and Torah that goes forth from defiled breath (Shabbat 119), for judgment is mitigated and the world exists only for the undefiled breath of the mouth of children, for through that the fathers will be revealed in the world to offer protection" (Likutei Moharan Kama 37, 4).

And similarly: "Peace increases through the learning of young schoolchildren" (Sefer ha-Midot 1, 69); and elsewhere.

[10] Naomi Shemer's wonderful song based on this teaching opens with the line, "Know that each and every shepherd has HIS OWN (mishelo) special song." The citation is almost precise. The source reads: "Know that each and every shepherd has a special melody according to the grass and the place where he grazes [his flock]." The word mishelo is liable to be misleading, suggesting that we are dealing here with the shepherd's own personal melody. The end of the song suggests otherwise, for it cites another line from the teaching, "And from the song of the grass comes the song of the shepherd." In R. Nachman's teaching there is no room for any doubt: The shepherd has nothing but the melodies of the grass.

[11] R. Nachman mentions the "Chapter of Song" cited in kabbalistic books that describes the song of all of creation. Each and every thing, from a worm to the high heavens, sings a song before the Creator. This constitutes the harmonious and constant song of the world, an expression of its vitality and ceaseless movement.

(Translated by David Strauss)