I will, with Hashem’s constant help, embark upon the subject of Emunat Chachamim, Emunat Tzaddikim.
The possuk (Shmos 14:31) says :
והאמינו בהשם ובמשה עבדו.
A second possuk (Shmos 19:9) says:
בך יאמינו 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 resort to 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? [That which 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 (see Moed Katan 17a), like Rav Praida who taught his talmid each lesson 400 times until he understood (Eruvin 64b).] Where is the place of emunah in learning?
And if we answer that the possuk is coming to establish 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 the possuk proclaims the climax of the miracle of 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 praise of Hashem. It is therefore an expression of the powerful revelation at that time when Clal Yisrael reached, as a whole, a high level of prophecy; that is, clarity of understanding that all that has transpired was by 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 thus: 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 also 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. 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 reason for 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 the Torah be transmitted through Tzaddikim; that we believe in them, that all of their words should be accepted by us, enabling the full Torah to 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” (Shemos 24:7), and stands in contrast to the other nations who rejected the Torah saying: “What is written in it?” (Sifri, D’varim 343. Pesikta Rab’sai 21.) 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 from Whom we are receiving it, this is sufficient.
This is what separates us from the Nations and the ways of the world. This is the aspect of Yisrael as a Holy Nation; this is the aspect of the holy forefathers and the essential point of emunah which defines Yisrael. There is no end to the length to which this point should be and has been expounded. I will not expand upon it here, for it is clear to all who follow the Torah and are attached to Hashem as is fitting.
The point here is that Hashem asks from us the very same emunah in the transmitters of the Torah, the true Tzaddikim. There are many reasons for this. I will mention one: Hashem, in his love for us, desires our full “partnership” with Him.
He did not give us the Torah as a closed book: Thus do: a,b,c… Had He desired Hashem Yisborach could have provided us with a Torah which explicitly detailed all the obligations that are incumbent upon each Jew to fulfill. But Hashem desired for us a much greater portion. He desired that we be actively involved in explicating the Torah. He gave us the Torah as an awesome Code of Principles upon which the Sages of the Torah expound with their creative intelligence, elucidating all the implications that can be derived from the principles. The understanding of 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. Learning from a living teacher is superior to learning from a book. 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 than the emunah 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, Tzadikim and Chachamim in each generation that are to be completely relied upon in this same way that we rely completely upon Hashem. [This statement does not imply that just as we rely upon Hashem, Yisborach to feed us, to heal us, etc. thus we also rely upon the Tzaddik to do so. Rather the implication is: just as we rely upon Hashem to do perfectly all that He is able to do, thus we rely upon the Tzaddik to do all the he is able to do.] 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 (Tehillim 146:6):
עושה שמים וארץ את הים וכל אשר בם, השמר 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 Tzaddikim in every generation from whom one is able to hear true Torah.
Although man is fallible, nevertheless Hashem guards those that merit to come close to Him in truth, that they not stumble, and that others can rely upon them, to receive from them the Torah in truth. Thus Hashem asks us, as the essential ingredient for the Nation’s success, for the sake of the maintenance of divine truth and that true life and purpose flourish in the world, first and foremost: believe in the Tzaddik, believe in the Chocham; accept him fully. Don’t leave a place of doubt in your heart about even one of his words or actions. Know that he is My servant and does My will, that he is My messenger whom I have sent to you to guide you on the correct path to serve Me. 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” (Tehilim 25:14). 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 aspire to ascend His holy mountain and conquer their natures and remain in that holy place. 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 Tzaddikim. 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 live 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 Tzaddikim 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 from Hashem 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. If so, where is there hope?
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.
It is clear to all that the Torah as a whole and in every part thereof contains two aspects: a hidden and a revealed aspect. In the same sense, each man has these two aspects, his reveled self and his hidden self: what is known of him by others and what is not known except to him. (Additionally there is a vast inner aspect of man known only to Hashem, Yisborach). The inner, hidden aspect of all things is always the greater aspect, both in quantity and quality. (Even humanity, whose outer aspect is the nations, and inner aspect Yisrael, and Yisrael is the “smallest of the nations” (Devarim 7:7), nevertheless this inner aspect is also greater in quantity for the soul of the Jew is incomparably ”larger” than that of the non-Jew, thus one Jewish life is paramount to the entire world. Thus in truth, in all such instances, the inner, spiritual aspect is “larger” than the external physical aspect, even though in physical terms the spiritual takes up no space. For quantity is also primarily a spiritual matter.
Furthermore all inner aspect is “clothing”, an outer aspect for a deeper, more hidden aspect. Thus the outermost aspect of anything, which is clear and known to all, is actually a thin veneer revealing only a weak illumination of the depths within. If one understands this simple principle and has it before him he can ascend the levels of wisdom and come close to truth, to Hashem. If one doesn’t understand this, rather sees the external aspect of things as primary, he remains forever distant from Hashem from truth, from life.
Hashem’s Presence is everywhere, in everything, truly all is Hashem. Yet our perception of His Presence varies according to what we are experiencing, and many other factors. In Holy places, such as the Bait Canesset, at the Kotel, at graves of the Tzaddikim, as well as at Holy Times; Shabbes, Yom Tov, during tefilla, Hashem’s Presence is felt more strongly.
The true Tzaddikim are the most holy vessels for Hashem’s Presence, as is it said of the holy forefathers that they were Chariots for the Divine Presence. The Divine Presence in this world is most manifest in the true Tzaddikim. (This accounts for the awesome kedusha of Kevri Tzaddikim, for the Tzaddik is even greater in his death than in his life.) The writings of the Tzaddik are, of course, unparalleled in their kedusha, only the Sefer Torah itself, the writing of The Tzaddik, Life of all the Worlds, is holier. And the Sefer Torah itself is called in the name of a human Tzaddik, Toras Moshe.
The perception of the Tzaddik’s holiness is not necessarily a simple matter. Just as Hashem’s Presence in this world is largely concealed, and perception of Him is largely a matter of personal merit and effort, similarly it is with Tzaddikim, whether living in this world or living only in the World of Truth. One merits coming close to Tzaddikim through one’s effort towards such, just as all spiritual attainments are gained by effort. Many Tzaddikim are Hidden Tzaddikim and their righteousness and holiness is known only to a very few. It is also possible that a person’s great righteousness and holiness is not even known to himself. In truth the holiness of each Jew is so enormous that he has no grasp of it; but for most, this holiness remains in the realm of potential. Very few merit bringing their inherent holiness into a living reality in this world, to be a true Tzaddik.
Therefore it should be seen that it is extremely important to believe in the existence of Tzaddikim in each generation, for in their merit the world continues, they are the foundation of the world, its constant support, its light, its beauty, its grace. Knowledge that there are living Tzaddikim of the greatest stature that are amongst us alters our life enormously. Were we to think that Moshe Rabbenu were alive and living amongst us, and, although we might not merit a personal visit with him, nevertheless, the mere knowing that he is here and leading us, praying for us, changes everything. Suddenly, with this knowledge we are living on a holy planet, with this knowledge we are no longer in a ‘bitter exile’, we are merely still in the Wilderness on our way to our holy destination. Thus we should believe and know that there are Tzaddikim of awesome stature in each generation. The Divine Presence is with us constantly, embodied within the Jewish People as a whole and within its true leaders, the Tzaddikim in particular.
May we merit experiencing this, amen.