(NOTE: What follows is quite a complex discussion that assumes quite a bit of prior knowledge of various Torah sources.
If you’re finding it hard going, you might want to skip the detailed discussion describing how we come to the conclusions we do, and go straight to the end of this post, where I set out the main points.)
Before we do all that, let’s first just remind ourselves of how each of these aspects are connected to the Erev Rav, and the negative character traits they embody:
Back in the first post, we learned that the Gemara (Beitza 32) says:
"Anyone who does not have mercy on the creations is from the Erev Rav because (the trait of) rachamim (mercy, or compassion) is what Hashem gave to the Jews'."
We learned from this that passage that lack of compassion and empathy for others is a key ‘Erev Rav’ trait.
We also learned that the Erev Rav and the souls of Bnei Israel derive from the same spiritual root, namely the ‘wasted seed’ that Adam emitted after he separated from his wife following his sin of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The souls that were initially created by Adam’s ‘wasted seed’ were reincarnated many times, before winding up in Egypt, where the more rectified souls became Am Israel, while the less-perfected souls became the ‘mixed multitude’ of Egyptian converts that went out of Egypt with Am Israel.
Lastly, Rav Berland explained in Post 6 that:
“Even if it seems to you that there was never a more wicked person than this since the creation of the world, you should know that the main problem is that this person simply lacks da’at, or spiritual awareness.”
Which gives us our next secret:
THE TWELTH SECRET OF THE EREV RAV:
A lack of da’at (spiritual awareness) is the main reason why people act in an evil way, and not because they have an innately evil nature.
(Incidentally, just to strengthen this point even more, it’s taught by our Sages that ‘seed’, or sperm, comes from the brain, which is one of the reasons why ‘wasted seed’ can cause so much mental and emotional damage to an individual, and cause them to develop so many disturbing, negative character traits.)
So now we come to the next question that needs resolving: is a lack of da’at and a lack of compassion somehow connected?
According to Rebbe Nachman, writing in the Likutey Moharan, the answer is another resounding ‘yes’!
Lesson 8 in part 2 of Likutey Moharan was the last lesson that Rebbe Nachman gave over, shortly before his death in 1810. His main student and redactor of his teachings, Rabbi Natan, believed that this lesson was akin to Rebbe Nachman’s spiritual will – a guide to the path that he wanted his followers to continue down, after he passed away.
The lesson is one of the longest in the whole Likutey Moharan, spanning many pages, which is one the reasons why I’m not bringing the whole thing here. As before, I highly recommend you read the whole lesson for yourself, online, in English and you’ll find links to the sites that will help you to do that on the BRESLEV page.
For our purposes, the main themes of the lesson are as follows:
1. It’s impossible for us to rebuke our fellow Jew in our times, because:
“the rebuke of someone who is unable to rebuke arouses the stench of the evil deeds and bad character traits of the people he is rebuking…thereby weakening their souls”.
To put this another way, every time we point out the ‘bad’ in our fellow Jew, we are making it that much harder for them to find the spiritual strength they need to overcome their bad character traits, and to make Teshuva.
Also remember what we learned about the negative traits of the Erev Rav back in Post 3, from the Sefer HaMiddot, namely that:
“Brazenness prevents a person from accepting rebuke,” – and brazenness is one of the key negative traits of the Erev Rav.
Rebbe Nachman then goes on to say that the only person who is capable of giving rebuke in a way that won’t damage the listener’s soul is a Tzaddik like Moshe Rabbenu, “when he rebuked the Israelites for the Golden Calf”.
This reference to the Golden Calf gives us our first clear link to the Erev Rav.
2. Next, Rebbe Nachman refers to the “Voice of Song”, that will be heard in the future (messianic) times, that is able to “subdue the heel of the Realm of Evil”,
and he brings the famous verse from the Torah that, “The voice is the voice of Jacob”.
The voice of Jacob is always linked to prayer. Later on, Rebbe Nachman explains that the Song of the Future (that will be able to “subdue the heel of the Realm of Evil”) will imbue the Jewish soul with a pleasant spiritual fragrance.
(I.e., instead of stirring up the stench of his sins, this voice will somehow bring the Jew’s good points and good deeds to the fore, instead, creating a pleasant spiritual aroma for God.)
This is a reference to Azamra, the concept we first learned about back in Post 6, where we discovered that:
“Even if the person is totally wicked, one must search and find in him some bit of good, regarding which he is not wicked. By finding in him this bit of good and judging him favorably, one actually elevates him to righteousness and is able to bring him to make repentance.”
The ‘Song of the Future’ is a reference to the 10 types of melody from the story of the Water Castle, and also to the Tikkun HaKlali, or General Remedy.
3. Next, Rebbe Nachman makes a clear link between prayer, compassion and da’at (internalised spiritual awareness):
“Attaining this Voice is accomplished by means of prayer. This is because the essence of prayer is a plea for compassion (see Avot 2:13), and compassion is essentially dependent on da’at… Da’at will increase in the Future [messianic time], and there will then be no violence or cruelty, for compassion will become ubiquitous by means of da’at, since compassion is contingent upon da’at.”
(In Appendix 1, you’ll find a brief discussion of the physiology of the human brain that bears out exactly what Rebbe Nachman is teaching us, here, in points 3 and 4.)
4. Further on, Rebbe Nachman explains that when people lack Da'at and compassion, they can't pray properly:
“[O]n account of compassion becoming spoiled and turning to cruelty, ‘da’at’ (i.e. spiritual awareness) is damaged, as in, ‘Whoever loses his temper loses his wisdom’ (Pesachim 66b). Da’at is then diminished into the category of immature mentality…This in turn causes sexual lust. And when compassion and da’at are damaged, it is impossible to pray.”
When people experience traumatic, abusive or cruel experiences, they often lose their ability to speak out their true feelings, and to relate to themselves, others and God in a mature, compassionate way.
(You can read more about this phenomenon in Appendix 1).
5. Next, Rebbe Nachman tells us that we need prayer in order to overcome evil:
“[B]y virtue of prayer…the Realm of Evil and the klipot (husks of evil) slowly disappear. Then, proselytes convert and glory is manifested.”
The key things to note here is that prayer is what makes the Realm of Evil disappear, and that the process occurs slowly, over a long period of time. But ultimately, the ‘proselytes convert’, and God’s glory fills the world again.
Now, who are the ‘converts’ that Rebbe Nachman referring to here? The souls of the Erev Rav!
Otherwise, there would be no need for the double expression ‘proselytes convert’.
The Erev Rav were the original ‘proselytes’ that joined the Jewish people during the Exodus from Egypt. If he was talking about regular converts, then Rebbe Nachman would have said that the ‘non-Jews convert’.
By contrast, the sparks of the Erev Rav souls have already converted once, but they now need to complete the conversion process to become fully-fledged, completely rectified Jews, which they do by virtue of prayer.
This gives us our thirteenth secret:
THE THIRTEENTH SECRET OF THE EREV RAV:
Prayer, especially hitbodedut, or personal prayer, is what makes the ‘Realm of Evil’ disappear, and what leads to the rectification of the Erev Rav, and the rectification of the world.
6. Next, Rebbe Nachman describes how when more people start to pray, this will lead to more prophecy returning to the world.
(As a side note, prophecy is meant to return to the world again once Moshiach comes, and the closer we get to that happening, the more ‘ruach hakodesh’ starts to proliferate, even amongst the common people.)
Then he tells us:
"by virtue of the proliferation of prophecy, the power of imagination is refined and rectified."
Here, Rebbe Nachman is telling us that when people start to pray, meditate and talk to God on a regular basis, (which is a function of the neocortex, or the brain’s frontal lobes), then the imagination (which is a function of the emotional brain) will start working in a much healthier way again, effectively resolving the root cause of mental and emotional illness.
7. Rebbe Nachman continues by linking emuna to rectified mental health (imagination):
“The essence of emuna (faith) corresponds to imagination…by virtue of the proliferation of prophecy, which refines and rectifies the imagination, the true emuna of holiness is rectified.”
The holy Arizal explained that the generation before Moshiach has one big thing that they’ve been sent back down here to fix:
their lack of emuna.
Here, Rebbe Nachman is setting out a clear path about how to actually do this, namely via profuse prayer and meditation, or hitbodedut. We’ll come back to this idea again in the last and probably final post, Post 10 when we pull all of Rebbe Nachman’s advice together, as it’s a full package and hitbodedut is only one part of the rectification process.
For now, it’s enough to note that hitbodedut is the main way that a person can achieve what’s called in Hebrew ‘yishuv ha’da’at’, which is normally translated as a ‘settled mind’.
But really, it’s hinting at the direct link between regularly talking to God and profuse prayer, and fixing ‘da’at’ – the lack of spiritual awareness that’s really at the root of the problem of the Erev Rav’s negative character traits.
8. Rebbe Nachman now sets up the connection between the Ten Commandments and the ten levels of prophecy referred to in Genesis Rabbah 44.6:
“by virtue or prophecy, which compromises ten levels that correspond to the Ten Commandments, one attains emuna in God, that God created everything with ten sayings.”
This is a pivotal part of the lesson, especially for anyone looking for clues about the Erev Rav. For the sake of brevity, we’ll sum it up like this.
The following things are all connected to the spiritual healing power of the Ten Psalms that make up the Tikkun HaKlali:
- The Ten sayings of Creation (that include the ‘hidden saying’ that enables evil to exist in the world);
- The Ten commandments (that encompass the whole Torah, and that Moshe Rabbenu smashed, as a result of the sin involving the Erev Rav and the Golden Calf);
- The Ten poisoned arrows that are fired at the princess, in the story of the ‘Water Castle’ (that we covered in more detail back in Post 6).Next,
9. Next, Rebbe Nachman emphatically tells us that a person can only real learn emuna, and fix their imagination, and start praying, if they’re following a ‘true leader’:
“One must search and seek for such a true leader very intensively, and beg God to give you the privilege of becoming the follower of a true leader, so that you can attain perfect emuna.”
Rebbe Nachman goes on to explain that if you have the misfortune of following a ‘false leader’ who doesn’t know how to pray, and who hasn’t rectified his own power of imagination, not only will your own imagination and emuna not be rectified, it could actually end up being damaged even more, and you won’t achieve your spiritual rectification, and the whole point of why you got reincarnated in the first place.
So in addition to the criteria set down by Rav Chaim Vital, (in Chapter 4) here’s another way we can check if our spiritual mentors are the real deal or not:
- Do they pray profusely?
- Do they genuinely have emuna?
- Do they inspire and encourage their followers to pray more, and to see God’s hand in everything that’s going on in their lives?
If the answer is ‘no’, then anyone who’s following such a leader won’t be able to learn genuine emuna, and achieve their soul correction.
10. The next big reference is now to Rosh Hashanah, the time when Rebbe Nachman encouraged all of his followers to congregate as his gravesite in Uman – even after his passing:
“[O]n Rosh Hashanah, prayer is in the category of din and judgement…by means of which we extract all the life-force from the Realm of Evil that it had sucked out from da’at and Jewish prayers.”
Rebbe Nachman goes on to explain that Rosh Hashanah takes place on the first of the Jewish month of TISHREY. TISHREY is an acronym for the verse: Yam Sheebarta Rashey Taninim, which means: the sea, You [God] broke the heads of the serpent. ‘Taninim’ is usually translated as ‘serpents’, but it can also mean snake.
The primordial snake has always been the main symbol of the Realm of Evil, where the snake seduced Eve into going against God and eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which directly led to Adam’s sin of emitting ‘wasted seed’, which directly led to the creation of the Erev Rav.
But there’s another place where snakes are given major billing in the Torah, and that’s when God is speaking to Moshe by the burning bush, and telling him he has to go and ‘bring the people out’ of Egypt – the people Moshe brings out are both Bnei Israel, and the Erev Rav.
God tells Moshe to throw his staff to the ground, where it transforms into a snake. Then, God tells Moshe to pick the snake up by its tale, and it will transform back into a piece of wood. But Moshe is petrified of this snake! Some commentators suggest that this snake was actually the Primordial Serpent itself, the head of the Realm of Evil that swallowed all the holiness of the souls emitted by Adam’s ‘wasted seed’.
No wonder Moshe was scared!
But in the month of Tishrey, that’s when the head of this ‘serpent’ will be crushed, and it’s forced to return all the da’at it’s stolen from the Jewish people.
Remember what Rav Berland told us: the reason people don’t make Teshuva is because they lack da’at.
Who’s got their da’at? The Primordial Serpent!
When is it forced to give it all back? In the month of Tishrey, and specifically, on Rosh Hashanah.
So this is our fourteenth secret:
THE FOURTEENTH SECRET OF THE EREV RAV:
The one time of the year when the Tzaddikim can force the Realm of Evil to release the soul sparks and the da’at of the Erev Rav that it’s captured is Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year.
11. The Lesson continues:
“And when it [the Realm of Evil] returns the holiness of the da’at that it has swallowed, da’at and the mind are restored to perfection.”
This has huge implications on two levels:
At the personal level, Rebbe Nachman is telling us that when the person is able get their da’at, their spiritual awareness, back from the Realm of Evil, then they will be able to develop the trait of compassion, and they will also be able to overcome all the crazy, evil behaviour and negative character traits typically associated with the Erev Rav, particularly, sexual immorality.
This will enable them to make complete Teshuva, and to fully integrate, finally, with the Jewish people.
But at the global level, something even more profound is occurring here:
When the last of the Erev Rav soul sparks is fixed in the way just described, then the Sefira of Da’at will also be restored to perfection – which means that the sin of Adam will finally be rectified, leading to Moshiach and the global redemption of the world.
[As a side note, Moshe Rabbenu took it upon himself to bring the Erev Rav out from Egypt, and Breslev tradition teaches that Rebbe Nachman possesses a reincarnated soul spark from Moshe Rabbenu – and is now completing the job of rectifying these Erev Rav soul sparks.]
12. In the last point that we’ll take from this very long, amazing lesson, Rebbe Nachman returns to the theme of rescuing proselytes from the Realm of Evil (that we’ve already figured out is a code word for the soul sparks of the Erev Rav):
“When we draw out of the Realm of Evil what it has swallowed, we draw out also its very life-force, representing proselytes. This too is alluded to in TISHREY, as in: ‘You know the soul of the foreigner / proselyte because – (eT nefeSH hageR keeY) – you had been foreigners’, (Exodus 23:9).
These letters spell out: TISHREY – the month of Rosh Hashanah, the month when the world was created. Also, the verse itself is telling Am Israel something very profound: you know the souls of these proselytes / foreigners / Erev Rav people, because you were also ‘foreigners’ in exactly the same way, and you come from the same soul root!
Just you’re a little further along in the spiritual rectification process…
There is so much more we could say about the insights contained in Lesson 8, of Part 2 of Likutey Moharan, but we’ll leave it there for now, and try to pull what we’ve just learnt together into some sort of order.
- A lack of compassion and da’at, and a ‘faulty’ or warped power of imagination, are the key causes of mental and emotional illnesses and negative character traits (and neuroscience backs this up). You can fix those things via regular prayer / meditation / hitbodedut.
- The unrectified soul sparks of the Erev Rav are fixed by the following things:
- Profuse prayer
- Seeing the good points, instead of focusing on the bad stuff (aka, Azamra)
- Working on their emuna
- Finding a ‘true leader’ to follow
- Going to Rebbe Nachman’s grave on Rosh Hashanah
- According to the Arizal, the main soul correction that the generation before Moshiach has to make is to fix their emuna.
- On Rosh Hashanah, the true Tzaddik has the ability to release the soul sparks that got swallowed by the Realm of Evil, as a result of Adam’s sin of ‘wasted seed’. These soul sparks are the Erev Rav – and when the last of them has been rescued from the Realm of Evil, evil will have no more power in the world, and Moshiach will come.
IT'S AS SIMPLE AS THAT.