This column includes small doses of Rebbe Nachman’s wisdom, helping us to get through the week in a more spiritual way.
One of the most common feelings of discouragement we all face in our service of Hashem is the feeling that we are being hypocritical by doing certain mitzvos or devotions, because of the wrongdoings that we regularly commit.
To illustrate, imagine a person badly lost their temper and said very hurtful things to their spouse or friend. Five minutes later this person realizes it’s time to daven Mincha. He gets up to daven and is overcome with thoughts like, “Look at what a terrible hypocrite you are! Just five minutes ago you said the most hurtful things to another human being, and NOW you’re gonna pretend like you’re a pious Jew and daven to Hashem? You think Hashem wants to hear from someone like you?”
Rebbe Nachman tells us that we must nevertheless persist with our service of Hashem and ignore the inner voice that tells us otherwise. In Sichos Haran he states: “There are times when a person imagines they will never merit the reward of the World to Come because they are so distant from Hashem. Still, they should be strong and determined. They should continue to long for Hashem, pine for Him, and do everything they can to serve Him with joy… Even if you are certain you will be condemned to Gehennom, G-d forbid, you must still do your part. Grab a good deed or prayer here, or snatch some time for learning Torah there. And G-d will do what is good in His eyes.”
There is a story told about the great tzaddik Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev that one morning he came to shul to daven but after a few minutes he left, only to come back about an hour later to start davening. They asked him why he had left and then came back. He replied that before he prays it was his custom to look around the congregation and find some way in which each person there was on a higher level than him. Normally, he was able to do this each morning without any delay. On this particular morning, however, there was a man in the synagogue who had done an especially egregious sin. Rav Levi Yitzhak, despite his best efforts, could not find a way in which this person was on a higher level than him. He therefore decided to delay his prayers in order to give the matter some thought. Finally, he was able to return and begin davening because he realized that if he had ever committed such an egregious sin as this man had committed, he would have felt too much shame to attend services with the congregation. This man, however, by coming to shul to pray, despite the sin he had committed, was on a “higher” level than the great tzaddik Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev.
May Hashem help us to always serve Him in any way we can despite our shortcomings in other areas. Amen.