At Home with Rebbe Nachman #1: The Wisdom in Everything
Over the years I’ve been asked whether there is a single resource that encapsulates Rebbe Nachman’s teachings on marriage and chinuch. I always answer that nothing like that exists because Rebbe Nachman’s advice on shalom bayis and chinuch is part and parcel of all of the rest of his teachings, as well as those of Reb Nosson. The advice that we need to build healthy, happy, and holy families is the same at its root as all advice in serving G-d and in repairing our character flaws. Even though we do have some teachings that touch directly upon the home, the real eitzos are diffused throughout the body of the Rebbe’s teachings, from the more informal sichos and lessons all the way through (and maybe especially through) the Sippurei Maasios, his tales.
When I was asked to write this column I thought, “Finally! Here’s the opportunity to walk through Likutei Moharan, lesson by lesson, and extract a single, practical eitzah for the Jewish home.” Just one word to the wise—I’m sharing my own gleanings from the Rebbe’s teachings (guided by the spectrum of traditional commentary on them as well as the insights of more contemporary mashpi’im); this is just one dimension of the way that each of these lessons speak to me as a wife and a mother (and a grandmother). It’s not an absolute, it’s a sharing from the heart.
We must always focus on the Divine intelligence that exists within everything, and bind ourselves to that inner, vitalizing wisdom so that it can help illuminate our path and draw us closer to G-d.
So let’s start with Lesson #1 of the first section. The rendition below is a free summary of a part of it, so that we can keep it brief:
We must always focus on the Divine intelligence that exists within everything, and bind ourselves to that inner, vitalizing wisdom so that it can help illuminate our path and draw us closer to G-d. That life-giving wisdom is expressed by the letter ח, CHet, for CHochmah, and for CHayut—Wisdom and Vitality.
People wonder why it is that even though we pray, our prayers are not accepted. It’s because they lack CHeiN—grace—and so they do not penetrate the heart of the one being asked. It is as if there were no place in the other’s heart for the words to enter.
Prayer is expressed by the letter נ, Nun, which has the numerical value of fifty, and prayer has fifty gates. When prayer is bound together with our attempts to see G-d’s wisdom within everything, the ח and the נ unite, and the prayers have ח”נ, CHeiN, and they are accepted.
“The words of the wise are heard [for they are spoken] b’NaCHaT (gently).” When the words of prayer are filled with awareness of G-d’s wise summons inherent within everything—when they have ח”נ—they make their impression (they are complete, and make a Tav, an engraving). The root of the letter Tav means to etch—once our words have CHeiN, then we can attain NaCHaT, we will speak in a way that makes an impression (a Tav). There is a progression in the word NaCHaT: Our words (expressed by the נ) are enlivened with our awareness of the Divine wisdom within everything (expressed by the ח), and then they make the impression that we seek (expressed by the ת). When our requests are illuminated by this wisdom, our words are heard and our request is accepted.
How To Get Others To Listen
A lot of married life and parenthood revolves around trying to get other people to do things…and we all know just how much fun that can be! We ask, explain, ask again, cajole, sometimes even attempt to manipulate and coerce, and the whole process can be so frustrating and exhausting. And sometimes still remain ineffective. Women will often repeat this question to themselves, among themselves: Why am I not being heard? Rebbe Nachman tells us one reason why, and it’s an empowering reason because if this is a factor that lies within the realm of my own choice, it’s something that I can influence. Our words are not heard because they lack CHeiN.
It’s not because the words aren’t pretty enough, or sweet enough. It’s because we often try to influence the other without pausing first to look deeply into the circumstance and seek out the bit of wisdom that’s necessary for my relationship with Hashem hiding within it.
Let’s be practical. I’ve asked my ten year old to clean up his room once, twice, three times, and each time the communication arms race can escalate because I’m getting frustrated. I can choose to stop and consider the situation—the “thing” before me. Where is the intelligence that is giving life to this situation? In what way is my Creator trying to signal to me through this circumstance? I consider it and I see: Hashem is using this matter to tell me that I must develop greater patience.
As soon as I come to this awareness, the arms race is over. I can speak b’nachat, gently. My words have chein, they are filled with a new awareness, and with Hashem’s help I hope to be heard.