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What’s the definition of a Tzaddik?

Rav Mordechai Goldstein, of blessed memory, tells us the level of a Tzaddik is measured relative to himself and his situation. This is based on many books of Kabbalah and Chassidut.

An example of this is somebody who does something against Halacha, the Jewish Law yet may still be considered a Tzaddik. This is because this person could have done something much worse. So, for him right now, he’s a righteous person because he went beyond his current level.

This is, of course, not meant to trivialize the overwhelming gap there exists between us simple people and the real tzaddikim out there. These are incredibly holy people capable of performing wondrous miracles because of their gigantic spiritual level. They can see beyond time and space, sometimes read thoughts and often even heal others.

Yet, we see that many people today are desperately searching for Tzaddikim to get blessings because they have all kinds of sufferings. There are things they desperately need in their life so they go looking for a Tzaddik to get a blessing, which is very reasonable.

There are things normal people can't do simply because it was decreed in Heaven. When this happens, all efforts can seem in vain.

Nevertheless, a righteous person can issue a new decree and that's almost as if he can force Hashem to listen to him and to do what needs to be done.

The decree then becomes a reality, as in Tractate Moed Katan 16b the sages bring the verse from from Shmuel II 23:3: “The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me, He that rules over men must be righteous, ruling in the fear of God”.

Rabbi Abahu then explained the verse as follows: "Hashem says: I rule over men and who rules over me? The Tzaddik!"


There are no Shortcuts to Becoming a Tzaddik

For many people, going to Tzaddikim is a way out and instead of taking the responsibility for fixing themselves, they are looking for a way to bypass the system of Justice. Instead of submitting themselves to Hashem and just saying “Hashem I Surrender to You and I wish to do your will", they think the Tzaddik can magically solve their problems.

Even though they say ‘I know that I’m false and phony and I’m gonna do better and I’m gonna dedicate myself more to others' they still continue in their wrong ways.

Instead of doing something about it themselves they look for someone else that will do the work for them. They are looking for a righteous person who will give them the blessing so they will get what they need without having to acquire the merit.

That is obviously not the proper path for serving the Creator.

The problem here is that if the reason that the person is looking for a Tsaddik is to act as a way out of his own responsibilities then he misses the whole point.

The whole point is to make a real bonding and to make a connection with Hashem. Without that, everything is lost.

Now, there are some people who believe they can’t really connect to Hashem. In this case, he decides he will find someone else that is connected and by connecting myself to him, I will be able to connect to Hashem.


Worship God Alone

This misguided idea is not something new for our generation. It’s brought down in the Midrash about Yaakov Avinu a long time ago.

We know that he didn’t want to be buried in Egypt. One of the reasons is because the Egyptians would make him an idol and that would be a big disgrace.

About Moshe Rabeinu, it’s brought in the Midrash the reason why his burial place remained unknown. This is because he was afraid that it would become to be an idol worshipping place.

There is a big issue about connecting yourself to Tzaddikim. There are ways to do it properly, in a good good, beneficial and positive manner, and there are bad ways.

So we have to make the distinction and to understand what is the right way.

Some people can come to a Kever and make it as a place of Idol worshiping and some people can come and do it in the right way and to connect to Hashem.


The Main Goal is to Connect to Hashem

The supreme goal that we are looking for is prophecy. While the final door to prophecy is closed, all levels in between are pretty much open. The path is there for the true seeker.

The end goal though is to see ourselves connect to Hashem through Devekut [connection].

The subject matter of what I am dealing with and what I’m teaching and practicing myself in my life is how to connect with Hashem.

Conversely, everything that is pushing you away from Hashem, God forbid, is the definition of evil.

If someone is going to a grave of a righteous person and he’s going there to get the strength to connect to a Hashem that's great. He’s going to this place with this person so that it will give him the strength to connect Hashem better.


Using Tzaddikim to Connect to Hashem

When I’m coming to King David’s tomb I have the privilege to use the platform that David Hamelech made. It’s as if I’m standing on his shoulders and then I can reach higher.

The point is not to break away from Hashem, God forbid. And certainly not to replace Hashem with someone else.

I want to connect to Hashem and I have something from which I can get a higher inspiration. I can get a higher starting point a better position to connect with them.

This is a positive thing and we can say t he same about the living Tzaddik.

For a Belz Hassid, the biggest Tzaddik in his generation is the Belz Rebbe. When he goes to a Tish and you look at the Rebbi and hear the singing, you get very inspired.

You see how the Rebbe is completely dedicating himself to Hashem. Therefore, you want to emulate him.

Then you decide you want to really connect to Hashem the way this person connects.

You come to this person so that it will give you a push to connect yourself to Hashem.

This doesn't mean that he will do all the work for you and you can sit back and look at how he’s doing it.

This is the right way to relate to the experience. This is the right way to "use" these holy individuals, and going to places that it will give us the privilege to connect to Hashem.


Striving to Find the Tzaddik that is Right for You

About 18 years ago, I wanted to see a certain righteous person that everybody speaks about. I went to his Tish I can tell he’s connected, but it still didn’t do anything for me. It’s very good for him that he’s connected, but I didn't feel much.

The fact that someone else is getting something from a place or person doesn’t mean that you will have the same experience. Each individual has to find the connection according to his Neshamah.

It’s not enough that the person that you’re going to is a Tzaddik. You must find a Tzaddik that your Neshamah can connect to his Neshamah and then pull your Neshamah even higher. Then you have the extra benefit of connecting to Hashem at a higher level, much more than what you could do by yourself.

But if the Souls are not connecting, if your Neshamah is a different root of this Tzaddik, then you have to look for someone else.


Looking For an Angel

Some people need to be inspired by someone that seems more like an Angel than a human. When you’re close with someone like that and you see his human side, you just can’t prevent being inspired.

There is a concept that there is no prophet in his own city.

A Prophet may have to go out of his own city to a place the people don’t know him and don’t know his human sides and then they can receive from him as a prophet as a righteous person and they will listen to his message.

It’s good for the person to be inspired by his friend that he learned most of his Torah from. He can be his Rabbi and at the same time his friend.

That means someone very familiar to you that is the source of inspiration for you on how to connect to Hashem.


Always See Yourself as a Good Person

A righteous person is only righteous relative to his position in life. This is a very important principle.

If a person has very strong desires and is living like a normal person even though when you look at his whole situation he seems very normal and regular. Since he’s righteous and has lusts and desires and many opportunities to do terrible things yet he puts all of that aside and lives a normal life.

Even though somebody lives a normal life, he’s a real righteous person.

Nobody can say even about himself exactly the measurement of how much he is getting over the last anxiety and how much is really connecting to Hashem.

When somebody sees himself as a bad person he is giving himself permission to sin.


Don’t Let Looks Deceive You

When Shmuel Hanavi went to the house of Yishai the father of King David because Hashem told him that he has to anoint the next king there.

When he looked at the brothers of King David they seemed to him like people that are fit to be king, but Hashem told him “No Not this one…not that one…” until he asked if he has another son.  They called David in from the field and he was the one who was anointed to be the king.

We can understand man only sees with his eyes, but God sees the heart of the person. Man sees the appearance of a person and God sees what’s really in his heart.

We can’t judge another and not even ourselves, because we don’t know how to judge.

The point of where each person is, in his heart, also has two sides. Everybody knows that they could do much better than what there doing. And on the other hand, they know for themselves that they have so many lusts and desires to get over and are trying not to get angry with this person, etc. There are always these positive and negative sides.

The majority of the time we have to look at ourself as righteous people, with as much honesty as possible.


Give Yourself the Benefit of the Doubt

If someone considers himself as a bad person he will never be able to really ascend. The first step is to believe that you’re capable of ascending, that you can look at yourself in a positive way, that you’re worthy.

So no matter the number of people that are able to ascend is, one has to say "I want to be one of them".

This is like a hot air balloon, when they drop a sack of sand so it can ascend. When a person wants to ascend he has to release his extra weight that means all of those negative characters traits that hold you back you need to let go of them to be able to ascend.

It’s not simple, rather it’s a big challenge. But if you want to be a warrior you have to do to learn how your enemy works and to know how to fight him.

Doubtful man in front of many different doors choosing one. Difficult decision, concept of important choice in life, failure or success. Ways to unknown future career development. Opportunity symbol.


The graves of Tzaddikim

Why do we go the graves of Tzaddikim?

What is the spiritual elevation that you gain by going to the grave of a Tzaddik? Why do thousands of people go to kivrei Tzaddikim? Why did the Arizal spend so much time going to the graves of Tzaddikim?

In Parshat Shelach, we find that Calev ben Yifune went to the Mearat Hamachpela [the burial places of the Avot and Imahot]

This is one of the first sources for going to kivreai tzaddikim. This is brought in the Medrash and is quoted by Rashi. Besides for all the sources in Kabbalah and Torat Nistar.

So why did Calev ben Yefune go? What did he hope to gain by going to the graves of these Tzaddikim?

In the Zohar, it is brought that the Nefesh D’Nefesh of the Tzaddik remains in the bones of the deceased. This is what is called Hevel D’Garmi.

What does Nefesh D’Nefesh mean?

Let us to explain this concept a bit.


The five levels of the soul

Your soul is made up of five parts. In ascending order they are called the Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, Yechida.

Nefesh is the lowest level, Ruach is higher, Neshama is higher, then there's Chaya and finally Yechida.

These names reflect the levels of consciousness that one can attain. The more you work on yourself and purify yourself the higher levels you can reach, and the higher levels of consciousness you can attain.

Now, each of these five is subdivided into five. So the Nefesh has 5 parts to it, the Ruach has 5 parts to it, etc. The names of these subdivisions are named the same as the main 5 divisions. [A bit confusing at first but once you get the hang of it it becomes pretty simple]

Thus, you have:

  • The Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, Yachida in the Nefesh
  • and the Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, Yachida in the Ruach
  • and the Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, Yachida in the Neshama
  • and the Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, Yachida in the Chaya
  • and the Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, Yachida in the Yechida

Altogether you have 25 parts of the soul.

[As a side note, the soul subdivides by 5 again bringing you to 125 and again to 625 ad infinitum]. For more on this topic see this post.

So the Nefesh of the Nefesh is the lowest level of the soul and the Ruach of the Nefesh is the second lowest level of the soul. Continue this until the Yechida of the Yechida which is the highest level of the soul.

The Zohar says that the Nefesh of the Nefesh of a deceased person remains in the bones. Meaning that the lowest level of the soul is still in the physical body and in the grave.

Because the soul of the Tzaddik is still in the grave, we can thereby connect to the Tzaddikim after their death.


Meditations to connect to a Tzaddik after his death

The Arizal taught us meditations to connect to a Tzaddik after his death.

The process is as follows: First, connect to the Nefesh of the Nefesh of the Tzaddik, then climb up the steps of the soul step by step until you reach the highest level that you can.

You are climbing the levels of the Tzaddik’s soul. The highest you can reach is based on your own limitations of your own consciousness.

Doing this you will connect to the higher levels of the Tzaddik, and to the higher levels of your own soul.

This is how you connect to Tzaddikim after their death. Through this a person can receive an illumination from the soul of the Tzaddik, blessings and even ask him things when he's prepared.

[As a side note, one should not go to the grave of a Tzaddik and do this meditation until one year after his death]


Ibur Neshama

An additional thing one can get from connecting to Tzaddikim is an Ibur Neshama. An Ibur Neshama is when a part of a Tzaddiks soul joins up with your soul.

When this happens, you can get tremendous spiritual elevation from the soul of the Tzaddik.

One thing that the Arizal did very often was to go to the graves of Tzaddikim.

Why did he do this? He did this because he would get tremendous spiritual elevation from this. The Arizal would get an Ibur Neshama from the Tzaddik he would visit. The Neshama of the Tzaddik would speak to him and reveal the secrets of the Torah to him.

What if you can’t go to the graves of Tzaddikim?

What can you do if you can’t go to the graves of tzaddikim? Is there a way to connect to them if you can physically go to their graves?

There is a story of R’ Chaim Vital and the Arizal.

Once R’ Chaim Vital had the inspiration to say over the Mishnayot of a certain Tanna. All day he repeated over the teachings of this great Tzaddik. After the constant repetitions R’ Chaim Vital came to the Arizal and the Arizal told him that he had an Ibur Neshama of this Tzaddik, even though he was not from the same root soul.

By studying the Torah of a Tzaddik and going in the righteous ways of a certain Tzaddik you can connect to him and receive spiritual uplifting from that Tzaddik.

May we all merit to become real Tzaddikim and reach higher and higher in our service of Hashem!


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    Regarding the soul subdivisions. It is my understanding that there are 125 levels to complete one’s tikkun. 5 x 5 x5 (5 levels of soul, each containing 5 levels of soul, in each of 5 worlds) In this essay you go beyond that to 625 and infinitum. How do these two concepts connect?

      There are 5 main levels. Just like you can split the 5 into 125, you can keep on splitting until infinity.
      This goes according to the principle that the Arizal quotes from the Zohar at the beginning of the Eitz Hayim page 17 second column.

    Baruch HaShem


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