‘Tachlit Hakavannah.’

Friday, 29 May, 2015 - 5:59 am

Dear Friends,

About two years ago I flew from Zurich to New York. Luckily enough, I sat next to a Gerrer Chassid from Ashdod. It didn’t take long to find out that though he was nominally a Gerrer Chassid, for a decade he had been connected to Chabad: learning its teachings, praying in the Nusach of the Arizal – and, in general, viewing himself as a Chabad Chassid. And just like me, he too was on his way to the Rebbe. “I’m going to request a blessing from the Rebbe for a Shidduch for my daughter,” he said. “It’s not that she’s an old maid, or having problems with a Shidduch. She learned in the Gerrer institutions, is looking for a Gerrer Chassid as a husband, and indeed we receive good offers of fine young men – Bnei Torah and G-d fearing. She has no problem; it is I who has a problem.”

“What is the problem?” I asked him.

“The problem is that I am shaking from the thought that she will marry a young man who is unfamiliar with the term ‘Tachlit Hakavannah.’”

I understood the issue immediately. “Tachlit Hakavannah” is the pillar of the teachings of the Chassidut. It is the central thing. From the moment one understands it, one cannot live anymore as a G-d fearing Jew without the teachings of Chassidut. Because one can learn and know, understand and internalize, but the Chassidic teachings explain to a person – and perhaps one might say that they grant him – the wonderful connection to Tachlit Hakvannah – the true, internal intention of everything that happens in this world, every mitzvah and every Torah story, any story that you have heard at all, and, really, every moment of your life.

Here is an example:

Why, indeed, did Bnei Yisrael roam the desert for forty years?

Yes, we know that it was a punishment for the Sin of the Spies – one year for every day, forty years for the forty days that the spies were in the Land and later libeled it. But why did they have to spend it in the desert?

The revealed Torah explains to us why things happen, why they were punished. But what was the internal reason for them to walk through the desert in particular? What did we gain from that? What did Hashem (so to speak) gain from that?

On Shabbat Parashat Naso, 5732 (1972) the Rebbe related to this question and said: “The Tachlit Hakavannah of the need for them to be in the desert was to make the desert into an ‘un-desert.’”

What is a desert? The prophet Yirmiyahu (2:6), when defining the desert, said “He who led us in the desert, in a land of wilderness and pit, in a land of waste and the shadow of death, in a land through which no man passed and where no person settled.” Just like materially the desert is a deserted place – “through which no man passed and where no person settled,” so too in the spiritual sense, a desert is a place where there are no human beings. In Chassidic teachings a human being symbolizes the “Adam Elyon” – the Supreme Human – namely Hashem. If so, a place where there are no people is a place where, so to speak, there is no place for the Adam Elyon – for Hashem. It possesses no holiness. The Divine force that gives it life is hidden, and therefore it is clear that it will be a “land of waste and shadow of death”, without life – without spiritual life and vitality; without holiness; just a material existence.

When Bnei Yisrael were in the desert, they changed it by their very presence there by observing Torah and Mitzvos; they even built the Mishkan (Tabernacle) there. Gradually (it took them forty years!) they turned the desert into a fitting place for the Adam Elyon. The desert became “the Sinai Desert”, a place that symbolizes, more than anything else, the bringing down of holiness into the world by the giving of the Torah.

A spiritual desert is not a geographic location. A spiritual desert can exist anywhere – at home and in the office, and – perhaps mainly – in the heart of a person as well. So if there are times when we feel that our heart is an empty, abandoned desert, we should remember and know that the desert too can be made fit for human habitation.


Shabbat Shalom,


Zalmen Wishedski

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