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Letters from the Rav

Topic: Master Kabbalists & Their Writings | Posted:June 24, 2015

The portion of Chukat deals with the ability to connect to the Gemar HaTikun, the ability to be beyond death. And therefore, I don’t feel it was a coincidence that a few years ago during this time we merited to receive some of the letters that Rav Berg wrote to Rav Brandwein that I would like to share with you now.

When the Rav started studying with his teacher Rav Brandwein in 1962, he would study the letters Rav Brandwein wrote to him. We have had the letters that Rav Brandwein wrote to the Rav, and now, unbelievably, we have some of the Rav's letters from the 1960's to Rav Brandwein. And it’s amazing, because being able to know the Rav in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000's is one thing; for many of us it is so far beyond where we are that it is hard even to learn from. But where the Rav was in the ‘60s is a place much closer to us - the Rav was beginning his connection with Rav Brandwein, and was literally beginning his work.

When the Rav met Rav Brandwein - who at the time was the Chief Rabbi of the Histadrut, the Israeli labor union, and was relatively known amongst the people as that - the study of Kabbalah was not known, and certainly the idea of disseminating it was not known. And one of the things that is clear from the Rav’s letters to Rav Brandwein is, on the one hand, how much difficulty the Rav was going through, and on the other hand, how uncaring the Rav was about those difficulties.

In one of the letters, the Rav is talking about raising money for the work of printing the books. At that time, the Rav was in the United States and not doing well financially. He writes, “I am working twenty hours every day in order to raise money, in order to awaken people to start knowing about Kabbalah.” But the concept of Kabbalah, the teaching of Kabbalah, the printing of books of Kabbalah was brand new. It is one of the things we take for granted today; in the 60's nobody had heard of Kabbalah. The Rav says, “We need a lot of time and work,” and then goes on a little bit about what he was trying to do.

The Rav, at that point, had done some things which didn't work out, and writes:

“There is no question what has failed we could have succeeded, because everything is from the Creator. But that in a few times in the past year we have tried, I have tried things and they have failed. But even those failures I know that there is goodness in them. And even though I have failed, even though I have gone through pain, I do not regret any of them.”

Here the Rav says an amazing thing, which I think is important for us to hear. He says:

“Why did we fail in these times? Because I have done things that are right, and therefore, because of my lack, we failed. Also because all the worries I have upon me and all the pain that I am going through is to purify this. We are dealing with deep, powerful, pure work.”

And that is really what we should take from this letter.

The whole secret of this Shabbat, the portion of Chukat, is being able to connect to the Gemar HaTikun, and we want to be those people who are involved in the work of awakening the End of the Correction. So what the Rav is saying here is don't forget that work is pure work, and an impure person will have difficulty manifesting pure work. The Rav is saying that the pain he is going through is in order to purify himself so that he can be doing the pure work.

And he writes an interesting thing - there were some students who were saying, “Let’s try not to do great work now, let’s let it go slowly. “ But the Rav writes that what we have to do is not small actions, but great actions, because the work that we are doing is great work. Those words that the Rav wrote are very important. The work that we are doing is deep and pure, and therefore, there are going to be great difficulties in the way. Therefore, we must ask ourselves this question: How pure are we pushing ourselves to be to merit doing the pure work?

I will end with a letter that the Rav wrote to one of the other students after Rav Brandwein passed away. He says, “I will work for the purpose of disseminating this wisdom, as long as the Creator will give me strength to do it.” At this time, the Rav wanted to go to Rosh Hashanah in Israel, but in his letter said he didn’t have the money, and so he had to make a choice between printing more books or coming to Rosh Hashanah in Israel. The Rav says, “Of course I won't come to Israel, and the money will go towards that. I will work with all of my strength and with the giving up of my soul to achieve the true purpose.” And here the Rav puts it in an interesting way. He says, “The understanding, appreciation, knowledge of the wisdom of Kabbalah will achieve its rightful place in the world… as my teacher Rav Brandwein worked for.”

So, obviously, there is a tremendous amount of teachings and understandings that we can, and need, to take from these letters. But if we boil it down to three points, the first is that it is not a coincidence that we received these letters when we did. Because there are teachings here that every single one of us needs to hear: that we are involved in deep, pure work, and in order to have the merit to be involved and be successful in keeping pure work, we have to be making sure that we are purifying ourselves.

The second point is something the Rav says to Rav Brandwein: “Your teachings are what give me my life.” And how many of us - whether it is from the Zohar, whether it is from the writings of Rav Ashlag, Rav Brandwein, or the Rav - really feel that? Without it, if we are not at least asking to be awakened with that desire, then the Creator can’t show us, and we will never be able to receive the wisdom that the Rav received from Rav Brandwein. And the third point: “I will work,” the Rav says, “for this purpose. As long as the Creator will give me strength. I will work with all of my strength and the giving up of myself until we will merit soon the true purpose, wisdom, appreciation, knowledge of Kabbalah, and it achieves its rightful place in the world, as my teacher, Rav Brandwein worked for it.”

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