Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Chanukah - Zecharya haNavi's vision

I think it's probably not coincidental that the 8th Torah in Likutei Moharan starts and ends with the focus on Zecharya haNavi's vision (ch. 4) of the golden menorah with 2 olive trees on either side, apropos of Chanukah. Zecharya does not understand the vision until Hashem explains that power is not with armies or might, but with the spirit "ruach" of Hashem. OK, what does that have to do with olive trees around a menorah? R' Nachman dedicates part of this torah to explaining the concept of Birur. Despite the fact that shul rabbis seem to devote endless derashos to this, most people have no problem deciding to do good things and avoid bad; the big problem is how to sort out one from the other amidst the comfusing and competing values in life (not for now, but this is the result of the big mix up of tov and ra after Adam ate from the tree). Imagine someone who has eaten cake his whole life, but has no idea how to bake. He can't even guess at the ingredients. Imagine then giving that person a piece of cake and asking them to undo the recipe and break it down into its component parts - what do you think the odds of success are? Without knowing the ingredients and looking at the recipe book, we have even less of a chance of seperating the good from the bad in life. Our recipe book is torah and tefillah. R' Nachman teaches in many places that tefila is the profoundest statement of emunah, belief, because when we pray we acknowledge that G-d has the power to change the course of how things are going (otherwise why bother davening for anything?). Tefila is where we want to be, but saying so is not enough; we have to make those dreams into reality. Torah is the practical how-to of sorting out life so we achieve what we pray for. Assur/muttar, tamei/tahor, chayav/patur - halacha is all about seperating the prohibited from permitted, undoing the cake into its ingredients. The punchline of Zecharya's vision is that we have to work at seperating the olive trees in life, at discerning and distinguishing between the tree of life and the tree of death, through the power of menorah, the "ruach" of torah and tefilah. R' Nachman discusses at length this concept of ruach and how to get more of it, but that's for another time.