Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Second Thoughts

Guard your thoughts carefully, for thought can literally create a living thing. The higher a faculty, the further it can reach. You can kick something with your foot, but throw it higher with your hand. You can reach still farther with your voice, calling to a person very far away. Hearing reaches yet further, for you can hear sounds like gunfire from a very great distance. Your sight reaches even further, seeing things in the sky. Highest of all is the mind, which can penetrate the loftiest heights. You must therefore safeguard your mind above all else. [Rebbe Nachman's Wisdom]

Knowing that thought can reach the loftiest heights, we must realize that thoughts are never mere thoughts. We must never allow ourselves to entertain the notion that it doesn't matter what we think. Good thoughts are extremely beneficial both to those who think them and to the world at large, while evil thoughts are most detrimental.

Rebbe Nachman taught: In ancient amphitheaters, monarchs used to stage battles between wild beasts and their prey. The same type of battle is waged daily in one's mind: battles between good thoughts and evil thoughts. When the good thoughts emerge victorious from the battle, it causes great pleasure Above. [Likutey Moharan 1, 233]

Rebbe Nachman also explains a related passage from the Zohar [III, 123a]

"Every day contains hidden good. But accompanying each day is an angel that prevents people (who are unworthy) from partaking of this good. This angel can take many forms - darkness, thorns, snakes, scorpions - all of which act as guardians to protect the good of that day and to prevent anyone who is unworthy from benefitting. Indeed, were it not for these guardians, the wicked would be able to freely enter into the mysteries of the Torah (and partake of the hidden good of that day).

"It is for this reason that when someone who is not worthy attempts to gain entrance into the Torah's mysteries, troops of destroying angels, which manifest as darkness, concealment, confusion etc. immediately surround him and confuse his thoughts, preventing him from trespassing. However, when one who is worthy wishes to enter, these guardians assist him.... they bring him to the hidden good and speak in his favour to the Master of the Universe..."

The "snakes and scorpions" are the thoughts that confuse a person when he wants to learn the mysteries of the Torah. Yet if he persists in his desire to find G-d, these very thoughts will assist him, then he will find great good every day.... For a person has the ability to incline his thoughts in any direction he wants. Even when his thoughts stray, it is within his power to harness them and return them to the straight path.

The harmful thoughts that assail people serve as a reminder of the ongoing battle with Amalek, the archenemy of the Jewish people. This is the meaning of the verse "Man's thoughts are rak ra kol hayom [only evil all the day]. In Hebrew, the final letters of these words spell AMaLeK. Evil thoughts represent the Amalek within. Amalek also alludes to doubts and confusion. This is seen in the numerical value of the word Safek (doubt) which is 240, the same as the gematria of the world Amalek. Like Amalek, doubts attack a person stealthily. Even before we realize we are under siege, we find ourselves overwhelmed by conflicting thoughts and emotions. It is therefore a Biblical commandment to remember Amalek, that is to be aware of him and his stealthy manner and to wage a constant battle against him.

Source: "Anatomy of the Soul" - Chaim Kramer - from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

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