Finding Your Shidduch: Splitting the Sea and Disgrace

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In last week’s article, we examined the true reason behind
the shidduch crisis in the orthodox Jewish world. With G‑d’s help, we
will now begin to lay out the path that a young man can take in order to
cleanse his way, thereby meriting to marry his zivug and having her be
an ezer to him and not, G‑d forbid, k’negedo.

It is taught in the Gemara (Sotah 2a): אָמַר רַבָּה בַּר בַּר חָנָה אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן וְקָשִׁין
לְזַוְּוגָן כִּקְרִיעַת יַם סוּף שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר אֱלֹקִים מוֹשִׁיב יְחִידִים
בַּיְתָה מוֹצִיא אֲסִירִים בַּכּוֹשָׁרוֹת (Rabbah bar bar Chanah said in the name of R’ Yochanan, Making
a match is as difficult as splitting the Yam Suf, as it says [Tehillim
], ‘G‑d settles [unmarried] individuals in a [married] house; He
releases those bound in fetters’). Why is pairing a man with his zivug
so difficult a thing that it is compared to the miracle of splitting the sea?
It is as we explained in last week’s article, i.e. that a young man separates
himself from his own zivug when he fails to be shomer brit, thus
preventing Hashem, as it were, from making the match. However, in this article,
we want to focus on a different question: What merit did b’nei Yisrael
possess to warrant such an open miracle? Moshe Rabbeinu told the people
prior to splitting the sea (Shemot 14:14): יְיָ
יִלָּחֵם לָכֶם וְאַתֶּם תַּחֲרִשׁוּן
(Hashem will make war for you and you shall be quiet). In other words, in the
merit of being silent, Hashem will fight for you and you will be saved from
Pharaoh and his attacking army. Since R’ Yochanan compared splitting the sea to
matchmaking, the same merit is needed for both kinds of miracles. Therefore,
for a young man to merit having his impenetrable barrier of bachelorhood split,
thus saving him from the forces of the Evil Inclination [Yetzer ha-Ra] that constantly attack him and prevent him from reaching his personal
salvation, he needs to learn the art of silence. But silence in the face of

What is the essence of teshuvah? Is it confessing
your sins and telling Hashem that you are sorry, banging your chest three times
and saying, ‘I have sinned, I have transgressed, I have rebelled’? Is it
regretting the sin so much that you shed tears? Is it promising never to sin again?
All of these are necessary facets of the whole; however, we have all done these
things and yet, we all seem to continue sinning. So what’s missing? R’ Nachman
reveals a surprising truth in Likutei Moharan 6:2: וְעִקַּר הַתְּשׁוּבָה כְּשֶׁיִּשְׁמַע בִּזְיוֹנוֹ
יִדֹּם וְיִשְׁתֹּק (The
essence of teshuvah is when one hears his disgrace and is silent and
quiet). Silence is the essence of teshuvah! What does silence and
quietness in the face of disgrace or insult have to do with teshuvah?
And further, why is that response the essence of teshuvah?

When someone insults or disgraces us, what is our natural
reaction? Most of us experience a strong urge to answer back. And why do we
want to answer back? We are very particular about defending our own honor, and
an insult, at its source, is an attack against our honor. Very rarely do we
ever feel that an insult is justified. Either the person who insulted us is
just plain wrong or he had no business saying what he said or he delivered it
in a tone of voice or in a manner or place that was totally inappropriate, etc.
By default, we are quick to justify ourselves and find reasons to answer back.
But R’ Nachman comes to teach us that when we remain ‘silent’ (outwardly) and
accept the disgrace with a ‘quiet’ and settled soul (inwardly), we are
practicing teshuvah in a way that surpasses all of the formal modes of teshuvah
mentioned above. Therefore, we need to come to the point in our lives where we
actually feel that the insults and the disgraces that we experience come
to us only because of our sins, and that the insults are an aspect of middah
k’neged middah
[tit for tat]. How is that so? By sinning, we insult our
Creator. It’s that simple. We should feel ashamed of this, but because most of
us don’t, we need a little reminder. So Hashem out of His abundant love for us
gives us a little nudge. He gets someone to insult us. And by being silent and
quiet, we acknowledge that the real reason for the insult wasn’t anything in
the ‘here and now’; rather, it was only because we sinned and brought disgrace
to the name of Hashem in this world. And if we respond with silence, then we
are forgiven for having insulted Hashem, as it is taught in Berachot 12b:
וְאָמַר רַבָּה בַּר חִינָּנָא סָבָא מִשְּׁמֵיהּ דְּרַב
כָּל הָעוֹשֶׂה דְּבַר עֲבֵירָה וּמִתְבַּיֵּישׁ בּוֹ מוֹחֲלִין לוֹ עַל כָּל
עֲוֹנוֹתָיו (Rabbah bar
Chinana the elder said in the name of Rav, Whoever commits an act of
transgression and is ashamed of it, they [the heavenly courts] forgive him of
all his transgressions).

Our Sages of blessed memory taught the most amazing thing (Eruvin
): נוֹחַ לוֹ לְאָדָם שֶׁלֹּא נִבְרָא יוֹתֵר
מִשֶּׁנִּבְרָא (It would have
been preferable had man not been created than to have been created). How could
our Sages say such a thing? After all, Hashem created man! Did He make a
mistake? Obviously not, but because of man’s sins, the perfect world that G‑d
created was destroyed, and its beauty was replaced with pain, misery and
suffering. If we don’t fulfill the purpose of our creation, then what’s the
point of our existence? However, their teaching didn’t end there. They
concluded their teaching with עַכְשָׁיו שֶׁנִּבְרָא
יְפַשְׁפֵּשׁ בְּמַעֲשָׂיו וְאָמְרִי לַהּ יְמַשְׁמֵשׁ בְּמַעֲשָׂיו (now that he has been created, he should
examine his actions; and some say, he should evaluate his actions). ‘Examining’
reflects the desire to fix the damage created by one’s sin, e.g. by doing teshuvah,
whereas ‘evaluating’ refers to contemplating one’s actions beforehand to
determine if they should be done in the first place. In other words, before a
person does teshuvah, he is an aspect of ‘it would have been preferable
had man not been created’. It is as if such a person doesn’t really have any
existence in the world. However, when he prepares himself to do teshuvah,
then his life begins to have meaning and he starts to transition from having no
existence to having existence. This is when he becomes an aspect of ‘now that
he has been created’.

This is the meaning of the name אֶ‑הֱ‑יֶ‑ה [Ehyeh], which is associated with
one’s will and the sefirah of keter [crown], i.e. ‘I will be’ or
‘I am prepared to be’. As R’ Nachman explains in L.M. 6:2, when a person
prepares himself to do teshuvah, he has a share in this name and draws
down the light of Ehyeh from the upper worlds to himself. However,
before teshuvah, the light of Ehyeh is hidden from him. This is
known as the achoraim of the name Ehyeh, always going back to the
beginning and starting over, i.e. א, א‑ה, א‑ה‑י, א‑ה‑י‑ה, the gematria of which is 44, i.e. א is 1, ה is 5, and י is 10. So
what? This gematria matches the gematria of דָּם [dam, blood], i.e. ד is 4 and ם is 40, and
this comes to teach that spilling of blood (humiliation, embarrassment) and
disgrace come to us when we experience the hidden face of Ehyeh. This is
what Elkanah, the man of G‑d, said to Eli the Kohen Gadol (Shmuel
Aleph 2:30
): כִּי־מְכַבְּדַי אֲכַבֵּד וּבֹזַי
יֵקָלּוּ (For I [G‑d] honor
those who honor Me, and those who disgrace Me will be treated lightly). In
other words, they too will be disgraced. As we said already, this is an
expression of middah k’neged middah.

R’ Nachman further explains (L.M. 6:2): כִּי עֲדַיִן הַדָּם שֶׁבֶּחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי שֶׁבַּלֵּב
שֶׁשָּׁם מְדוֹר הַיֵּצֶר הָרָע כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב [לֵב חָכָם לִימִינוֹ]  וְלֵב כְּסִיל לִשְׂמֹאלוֹ עֲדַיִן הוּא
בְּתֹקֶף וָעֹז וּבִשְׁבִיל זֶה בָּאִין עָלָיו בִּזְיוֹנוֹת וּשְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים (Because the blood still resides in the
left cavity of the heart, and that’s where the Yetzer ha-Ra dwells, as
it is written [Kohelet 10:2], ‘[The heart of a wise man is to his right] but the heart of a fool is to his left,’ it is still strong and powerful and
because of this, insults and spilling of blood come to him). We have two kinds
of ‘blood’ coursing through our ‘body’; blood on the right side strengthens the
Good Inclination [Yetzer ha-Tov] while blood on the left side
strengthens the Yetzer ha-Ra. Our job is to drain the blood from the
left cavity of the heart in order to completely subdue the Yetzer ha-Ra.
And the best way to do this, the most effective way to do this, is by
being disgraced and insulted, feeling the embarrassment and being quiet.
Miraculously, this drains the blood from the left side and weakens the Yetzer
—which, if you think about it, explains why we have such a strong urge
to answer back in the first place. The Yetzer ha-Ra doesn’t want us to
be silent because by doing so, it slowly dies.

But how does being silent empty out the blood on the left
side? By being silent, we transform דָּם [dam, blood] into דֹם [dom, silent].
And since the dam was changed from its original substance, it is no
longer there. By being silent, we diminish the amount of dam on the left
side. As R’ Nachman further explains: וּכְשֶׁמְּקַיֵּם
דֹּם לַה’ אָז הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מַפִּיל לוֹ חֲלָלִים כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב
דּוֹם לַה’ וְהִתְחוֹלֵל לוֹ וְהוּא יַפִּיל לְךָ חֲלָלִים (And when he fulfills ‘Silence for Hashem’, then the Holy One
of Yisrael, blessed be He, causes corpses [chalalim] to fall before him,
as it is written [Tehillim 37:3], ‘Silently wait for Hashem and
longingly hope [hitcholel] for Him’, and He will cause corpses [chalalim] to fall before you [see Gittin 7a]). And who are those who fall dead
like corpses? The Yetzer ha-Ra and its minions.

This is exactly what David ha-Melech did to destroy
completely the Yetzer ha-Ra within himself (Tehillim 109:22): כִּי־עָנִי וְאֶבְיוֹן אָנֹכִי וְלִבִּי חָלַל בְּקִרְבִּי (I am poor and destitute, and my heart is
completely empty [chalal] within me). The cavity on the left side of the
heart was completely drained. There was nothing in it. He had completely slain
the Yetzer ha-Ra within himself, i.e. the left side of his heart became
an empty space, a chalal (the same root as the words chalalim and
hitcholel above). With concerted effort, we can do it too. It’s not
impossible. If we can do it once, we can do it hundreds or thousands of times
throughout our lives. But it takes prayer, practice and patience. If you remind
yourself of this every day, you too can merit the death of the Yetzer ha-Ra
within you. And if we all practice this, the Yetzer ha-Ra will no longer
have any place in this world.

If you think about it now, the reason why silence in the
face of insults and humiliation is so powerful is because it is an expression
of emunah. By remaining silent, we are, in essence saying, ‘Hashem, You
orchestrated this insult. You gave me this opportunity to fix myself. It is for
my good and couldn’t possibly be any better. Thanks.’ And this explains the
great merit of the silence at the Yam Suf. It was a massive expression
of emunah by the entire nation in the face of an unprovoked attack by
the forces of evil, as it says (Shemot 14:31): וַיַּאֲמִינוּ
בַּיְיָ וּבְמֹשֶׁה עַבְדּוֹ
(And they had emunah in Hashem and in Moshe His servant). And this is
the same emunah that a young man needs to develop to have his Yam Suf
split for him.

In next week’s article, G‑d willing, we will explain how
this kind of silence creates a man in the image of ‘Adam’ thus giving him merit
to find and unite with his ‘Chavah’, i.e. his true zivug.

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