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to be or not to be
middot truth torah to be or not to be

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to be or not to be

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-burningbushTruth: The soul is created from the place of the Holy Spirit, as it is written (Bereishit 2:7): "And He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life."  It is hewn from a place of purity and created from the Celestial Radiance, from the Throne of Glory.  And there is no falsehood above, in the place of the Holy of Holies, but all is truth, as it is written (Yirmeyahu 10:10): "And Hashem God is truth."  I have found it written (Shemot 3:14): "I will be what I will be" [eheyeh asher eheyeh], and (Yirmehayu 10:10): "And Hashem God is truth; He is the Living God and the Eternal King."  Derive from this that God, the Holy One Blessed be He is truth; for the eheyeh, whose gematria [numerical equivalent] is twenty-one, is found twenty-one times [twenty-one multiplied by twenty-one equals 441, the gematria of emet, [truth]. And the gematria of the word eheyeh itself is twenty-one [so that eheyeh asher eheyeh,  being understood as a compounding of ehyeh, would, in itself, give the same result.                         

--Rabbi Shraga Silverstein, Orchot Tzadikim (The Ways of the Tzadikim), The Gate of Truth


This passage by Rabbi Silverstein is brilliant and rich indeed.  But the thrust of it is that Hashem is pure truth.  And thus, any soul which He breathes into us is pure and true.  The only way our souls deviate from purity and truth is through our own doing or lack of doing.

When Moses is first confronted with the presence of Hashem through the burning bush, he experiences two truths.  In the first truth, he is shown the reality of Hashem:

Moses said to God, "Behold, when I come to the Children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your forefathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His Name?' — what shall I say to them?"

Hashem answered Moses, "I Shall Be As I Shall Be." And He said, "So shall you say to the Children of Israel, "I Shall Be has sent me to you.'" God said further to Moses, "So shall you say to the Children of Israel, 'Hashem the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob has dispatched me to you.  This is My Name forever, and this is My remembrance from generation to generation.' Go and gather the elders of Israel and say to them, 'Hashem, the God of your forefathers, has appeared to me, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, "I have surely remembered you and what is done to you in Egypt." '   -- Shemot 3:13-15

The second truth Moses experiences is his divinely appointed purpose: to bring to the Children of Israel the reality of Hashem and be a key player in their redemption process. While grappling with the Divine identity must have been an amazing moment for Moses, I think as well that the revelation of Moses' future must have daunting.  While it might seem like a blessing to know one's purpose and path, the other side of the coin reveals that sometimes the truth regarding these matters is challenging and shocking.

struggling to be

As we struggle to know the truth is in our lives and what is our soul-purpose, we sometimes find ourselves cleaving to the examples of others, either present or past.  But a famous story would tell us that while these examples might be inspirational, they are not for us to be.

“When the day comes that I must account for my life, I will not be asked: ‘Why weren’t you Moses?’ I was not equipped to be Moses. But I dread the question, ‘Why weren’t you Zusia?’

—Reb Zusia of Anipoli

Each of us is a unique neshama with a specific destiny.  Most likely we are not going to have an exact burning bush moment like Moses did thousands of years ago to give us our course.  But I do not doubt that we do have these aha moments of revelation that set us on our way.  The question is:  will we listen to the truth?  Will we wrestle with it and walk away if it is a hard truth to follow?  Are we interested in seeing our soul destiny fulfilled in light and truth?  Or do we want an easy road filled with spiritual clouds and darkness?

As Hashem is close to all who call Him, to all who call upon Him in truth (Psalms 145:18), then we can be assured that if we do seek truth that Hashem will be close to it and us. One way to tap into that truth is when we are in prayer and service to Hashem. It is during these times of greatest kavannah (intention) that we can rise above our mundane states to a higher level of truth.  This is not to say that we forget the world; rather, it is a special time we set aside so that we can be close to the Creator and experience true revelation.

Freeing one's heart of everything in the world and drawing near to the Holy One Blessed be He alone, so that one's intellect grows stronger in its cleaving to the Celestial Radiance, and one's mind yearns constantly for Him....But if one prays by moving his lips and face before the wall, thinking of his affairs, calling upon Him with his tongue — his heart occupied with household matters — or thinkd to dirive honor by virtue of his pleasant voice, to find faor in the eyes of men and be praised by them, then his Divine service is not true, and he is in the class of those about whom it is written (Yirmeyahu 12:2): "you are close in their mouths, but far from their reins."  Therefore we pray, "And purify our hearts to serve You in truth" — that we perform our Divine service truthfully, that we believe with a perfect heart and a willing spirit, and that we not serve for the sake of people, money, or exaltation. --Rabbi Shraga Silverstein, Orchot Tzadikim (The Ways of the Tzadikim), The Gate of Truth

If we sincerely want to know where we are to be in life, then we must seek out the Eternal in true supplication and sincerity. As we do, He will illuminate our paths in truth and we will have the strength to endure and truly become what we are to become.  To be or not to be — this is the question.  And the answer?  To be.

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