“Sweet Up and Down” By Rabbi David Yisrael Kalmus (copied here with permission)
There is a rhythm to life. We breath in and then out. We step with
our right foot, and then with our left. We sleep and then we awake.
We see for a moment, but then we blink.
Our Sages stated thousands of years ago that the world is not a
stagnant, fixed reality as it appears but that HaShem literally
recreates the physical universe at every single moment. Recently,
quantum physics has corroborated this ancient teaching, revealing
that the entire world is popping into and out of existence at each
instant, like the blink of an eye!
Our Sages also teach that man is called an “Olam Katan”, a small
world. Therefore, in some very profound way, we are also bursting
into and out of existence.
Until the wellsprings of the Ba’al Shem Tov began to spread forth,
our understanding of this reality remained obscure. However, the
Ba’al Shem Tov and the great Chassidic Masters dug down deep
and pulled out the most potent parallel between the pulsating nature
of man’s consciousness and the pulsating rhythm of the world.
Chassidus explains that man’s mind is in a constant state of
fluctuation between expansion and constriction. The source for the
ups and downs of life comes from an inner psycho-spiritual
dynamic known as “Ratzo v’Shov”, running and returning. In the
famous sixth lesson of Likutey Moharan, Rebbe Nachman utilizes
his powerful understanding of “Ratzo v’Shov”, to shed light on the
bipolar state of man and the key to attaining harmony with the
natural ebbs and flows of our mind.
At times Rebbe Nachman explains that we will be feeling
particularly good. We will have tranquility of mind. Our emotional
state will be joyful. Our actions constructive.
This is coming from an expanded state of consciousness known
as Mochin D’Gadlut. Then in one instant, our thoughts become
dark, our emotions turbulent, and our actions destructive. This is
coming from a constricted state of consciousness known Mochin
In the modern world, we seek psychotherapy for this pattern.
However, Rebbe Nachman explains that the problem is not in
the pattern itself, but how we respond to it. Put simply, in times
of expanded consciousness, our orientation to life should be
growth oriented and explorative, with an intense desire to
achieve a greater truth than the one we currently possess. The
focus being on climbing from rung to rung.
On the other hand, when constricted consciousness strikes, we
should not continue our quest for understanding and truth
seeking. Instead, we should empty our minds completely of
what we hold to be true, and simply believe that what is taking
place is for the very best. The focus being on not getting pushed
off the rung completely.
One might scoff at such a response as being ignorant and naïve.
However, the depths of this teaching runs very deep.
How does one actually achieve greater understanding? Rebbe
Nachman is telling us that when trouble strikes, your ability to
“know” is purposefully concealed from you by HaShem. At this
point your choice is either to resist, as we so often do, or to
believe more deeply. Once one’s belief and hope deepens, his or
her capacity to experience a higher truth paradoxically expands
along with it. When approached correctly, the constriction of
“knowing” paves the way for greater understanding
In this week’s Parashah, Yosef ends his twenty two year long
period of intense servitude and begins to become the most
influential and fruitful figure in the world. While this transition
might appear to be highly incongruent, it is actually Yosef’s
positive response to negative circumstances that created the
possibility for this sweeping transformation.
Our Sages teach us that while in prison, Yosef was a “jumping
man”. Yosef had accustomed himself to respond to his problems
with dancing and singing. He did not attempt to understand the
“unfortunate” circumstances of his life. Instead, he decided to
face them with the utmost faith and joy. As a result, he was able
to see the good in his life, and achieve greater clarity than those
around him. It was with this intense clarity, that he left prison
and became viceroy of the most powerful country in the world.
Rebbe Nachman teaches that only a person who becomes expert
in going up and down, can truly find his way back to HaShem,
and bring everyone along with him.
Yosef’s ability to go up and down successfully ultimately led to
his own personal redemption as well as that of everyone around
May HaShem bless us to know how to run and return like Yosef
HaTzaddik, facing our challenges with strength, simplicity, and
joy, and responding to our successes with an ever growing
yearning for greater understanding and clarity. With this, we will
find our way back to the One who loves us so dearly and waits
longingly for our true arrival.
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