I will, with Hashem’s constant help embark upon the subject of Emunat Chachamim, Emunat Tzaddikim.
The possuk says: והאמינו בהשם ובמשה עבדו.
A second possuk says: ויאמינו בך לעולם
There is an apparently surprising element here. Be it that one must believe in Hashem. That is, since our minds cannot grasp Hashem, therefore we must rely upon Emunah. (according to the common understanding that Emunah applies where our intelligence ends. What we grasp and understand with our intelligence, we needn’t rely upon Emunah; for it is clear to us, we know it. Rather that which we do not (yet) know completely, we are asked to accept upon faith as true)
Rather, Moshe, why must we believe in Moshe? Is it not sufficient to hear his teachings and to grasp them? What element of faith is needed to receive Torah from our teacher? (and what we fail to understand we must ask our teacher to explain to us until we understand it. A true teacher of Torah will explain to us until we understand, as it is taught that we shouldn’t learn except from one who is considered a Malach Hashem, like Rav Praida who taught his talmid each lesson 400 times until he understood.)
And if we answer that the possuk is coming to fix the principle that the Torah was given only through Moshe and that we are given to believe in Moshe’s Torah and to reject any other Torah given through any other person, this is certainly true, and implied in the possuk. Nevertheless if one examines the context of the verse one sees that this is not the simple meaning, for thepossuk proclaims the climax of the miracle if the splitting of the Sea, the culmination of the miracles of the Exodus, and the opening to the Song at the Sea which Yisrael sang in Hashem’s praise. It is therefore an expression of the powerful revelation at that time when Clal Yisraelreached as a whole a high level of prophecy, that is a clarity of understanding that all that has transpired was the hand of Hashem through His servant Moshe. This is expressed through the word Emunah, and this is what requires understanding, for as is said above, where there is clarity of understanding Emunah is not needed, and here Clal Yisrael reached a great apex of clarity of vision.
Rather the matter is: just as even what we can know of Hashem, that is, what he reveals of His providence to man; nevertheless there is always a level of understanding of His ways that one has not yet reached. So it is to with our true teachers, the Tzaddikim, that bring the Torah to us in every generation. As much as we grasp of their ways and teachings, nevertheless there is always an element that is beyond us. And just as we must accept all of Hashem’s ways, those that we understand and those that we don’t, thus too with the Tzaddikim. This is called Emunat Chachamim, Emunat Tzaddikim, that we accept the true Tzaddikim in their entirety as we accept Hashem in His entirety.
One must understand this from several angles. One point is that if one accepts only the teachings of the Tzaddik which he understands, in essence he has not accepted the Tzaddik at all, he in essence is only relying upon his own understanding. Rather Hashem’s wisdom dictated that theTorah be transmitted through Tzaddikim that we believe in them, that all their words should be accepted by us, the full Torah be transmitted to us and not just the Torah that we are able to grasp immediately. This concept is conveyed in the words of Clal Yisrael upon the receiving of the Torah : we will do and we will understand, and stands in contrast to the other nations who rejected the Torah saying: What is written in it? Clal Yisrael accepted the Torah upon Emunah: we will do. The explanation is we will do even though we don’t yet understand. Because we understand who is giving us the Torah, therefore we needn’t accept it from the fact of our intelligent grasp of its content, for Whom we are receiving it from is entirely reliable to us.
This is what separates us from the nations and the ways of the world. This is the aspect of Yisraelas a Holy nation, This is the aspect of the Holy forefathers and the essential point of Emunahwhich defines Yisrael. There is no end to the length to which this point should be and has been expounded but I will not expand upon it here for it is clear to all who follow the Torah and are attached to Hashem as they should be.
The point here is that Hashem asks us the very same Emunah in the transmitters of the Torah, the true Tzaddikim. As for everything else there are many reasons for this, but I will mention one. Hashem , in his love for us, desires our full “partnership” with Him. Therefore He did not give us the Torah as a closed book: Thus do: a,b,c… Rather he gave us the Torah as an awesome code of Principles upon which the Sages of the Torah expound with their creative intelligence all the implications of the principles. The understanding of the the Torah is a creative process which engages the full capabilities of man. In this fact lies its great delight.
Therefore Hashem gave the Torah into the hands of teachers whose active engagement with the students would transmit the Torah from generation to generation. Thus the responsibility for the Torah lies with the nation in each generation. The acceptance of the Torah was not a one-time act, rather it is a continual choice. In his love for us He gave us completely the greatest treasure,
The Emunah that one is required to have for the Tzaddik is perhaps a harder test that theEmunah for Hashem Himself. For after all, he is only a man like me, and prone to mistakes, failure, faults, ups and downs, etc, etc. like me, How can I believe in Him? Therefore the possuk comes and tells us And they believed in Hashem and Moshe his servant. And Hashem said to Moshe: they will forever believe in you. For we not only believe that Hashem created the world and guides the world and that He gave us His Torah. We also believe that he chose for us prophets and Tzadikim in each generations that that are to be completely relied upon in this same way that we rely completely upon Hashem. We trust Hashem that He chooses for us success in our mission, therefore the truth will reside with us always. The Torah will be expounded in each generation in absolute truth and will be embodied in the Tzaddikim and Chachamim of each generation. This is expressed in the possuk:עשה שמימ וארץ את הים וכלאשר בם השומר אמת לעולם the same one that makes heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in it he GUARDS TRUTH FOREVER. That is, he ensures that true Torah never leaves the earth. He ensures that There are true Tzadikim in every generation where one is able to hear from them true Torah.
Although man is fallible but Hashem nevertheless guards those that merit in truth His closeness that they not stumble, that they can be relied upon to transmit the Torah in truth. Thus Hashemasks us , as the essential ingredient for the nation’s success, for the maintenance of Divine truth and true life to prosper in the world. First and foremost to believe in the Tzaddik, to accept him fully. One’s mental keenness is not his primary tool for the grasping of truth, rather the purity of his Emunah.
If one will ponder this he will see the great profundity and wisdom in this and how it forms the main principle of our spiritual, our true existence and Life in the real sense. Much of its depth is very hard to explain in words and is left for each one to ponder and see for himself. This is in concordance with the possuk, the secret of Hashem is with those who fear Him. I have nevertheless taken upon myself, with Hashem’s help to explain in words as much as I can. One should consider well that the Holy Torah is in our midst today, which is our life , our breathe , our only hope, the only good, our eternal reward and portion—this Torah is here for us today because of the chain of Chachamim and tzaddikim of each generation, whose awesome purity in the service of Hashem rendered them into fit vessels for the transmission of Hashem’s wisdom.Hashem’s wisdom from the beginning of creation was that there would rise up in each generation men who aspired to ascend his Holy mountain and conquer their natures to remain there. This is the man that Hashem created in His image, the one who would complete his divine form as man. From the seed of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov there would always be those who would be inspired to ascend to the heights of holiness in order to serve their Master fully. Thus the pure transmission of the Torah was insured from the outset and the purpose of creation would be fulfilled in its perfection. Every man would have free choice to grasp the tree of life if he so desired. The insurance of this purpose is the work of these Tzaddikim. It is clear to one who understands that this sole possibility for true life, to learn and practice the holy precepts of the Divine Torah is only because of these Tzadikim. With this understanding it becomes simple to believe their words and follow their teachings even if our understanding is very short to grasp them. Just as we don’t rely on our intelligence to grasp the Divine itself which is beyond any human grasp at all, rather living happily in the assurance of our faith-wrought choices, thus, too, we don’t rely upon our limited intelligence to grapple with the thought of our Holy and Pious Sages , rather warm ourselves to their glowing coals and allow their light to flow into our souls.
One who is far from truth often finds difficult the concept and reality of belief and trust in the Sages and Tzadikkim. He who has not clarified his own situation sufficiently thinks of himself, with the little knowledge that he has, as a great mind and seeks to grapple with the Torah by virtue of his keen intelligence. Therefore he finds fault and shortcoming in the words of the true Tzadikim for he thinks himself close to their level. Since he has not mastered his own character faults his vision is distorted and he is prone to remain with these faults and distant fromHashem if he delays waking up to the truth.
There are many ways to be released from this blindness but the key to all of them is a desire to find truth. True since he lives in imaginations he considers that truth is already his portion, and thus where is there hope?
The opposite is actually more perplexing. For the realization of truth is simply recognizing that the Torah’s wisdom is not yet entirely his own, that it forever remains above him. When he fixes in his heart his own awesome smallness with respect to Hashem he can begin to grow and grasp reality. Then he can appreciate the great level of the true Tzaddikim and seek to learn from them. When afterwards, in periods of small-mindedness he might find the Tzaddik’s words as simple to him, he will remind himself that he is still far from living in truth and, being prone to deception, will judge the Tzaddik or the Sage “to the side of merit” and search for the shortness in his own thinking.
about the featured painting:
כי כבר זכינו לקבל תורתנו הקדושה על ידי משה רבנו עליו השלום, וכבר היה לנו צדיקים רבים גדולים ונוראים בכל דור ודור, וראוי לנו לסמוך עליהם בלי שום חקירות ולילך בעקבותם, להאמין בהשם יתברך בפשיטות ולקיים תורתו ומצותיו כאשר מסרו לנו
(משיחות הר”ן ל”ב)
We have received the Torah through Moses our teacher, and it has been transmitted to us by the awesome Tzadikim of each generation. There is no question as to their integrity and they can be relied upon without question. All one must do is follow in their footsteps, believing in G-d with innocent simplicity, and keeping commandments of the Torah as taught by our holy ancestors. (from Sichos HaRan 32)
Oil on canvas
70 x 80 cm
from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, z”l. The main idea is that which is found abundantly in his teachings; to follow the Torah and cleave to Hashem with utter simplicity, complete faith and trust in Hashem and the poerfection of all His dealings with us, all being for our absolute good, and furthermore, trust in all the words of all the true tzadikim of all the generations; that we cleave to the words of the Torah and of the sages and trust in them with our full hearts, not to put their words to the test of philisophical speculation, rather the essential thing is that our faith should be pure and whole. That which we understand we understand and that which we don’t we don’t, yet we trust that we will understand all that we need to understand and we can rely entirely on the tzadikim in the way that they have brought us the Torah, in this will be our success in this world and the next.