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Renewal, at its core


The holy Zohar characterizes Teshuva as “Throwing something back to the place where it was taken”.  Just like if a thief wants to make amends, he must return that which he took to its rightful owner, so too one who sins and desires to repent, must return that which he stole to its original place. Says Rebbe Nachman, our original place is called the emanation of “Chokhmah” (Wisdom). It’s the root of everything, as it says (Psalms 104) “כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ”, Hashem created everything with wisdom.

The truth is that there is an even higher emanation, called Keter, but that emanation is so elevated that it’s unknowable to Humans. Another name for Keter is Ayin, because as far as we humans can comprehend, it’s nothing to us. It’s just too high for our intellect to fathom. That leaves us with Chokhmah as the root of everything, as King Solomon wrote, “הַחָכְמָה תְּחַיֶּה בְעָלֶיהָ”, Chokhmah gives life to all those who possess it.

The Rebbe warns us to be careful from extraneous wisdoms, which impede our ability to connect to our core, Divine wisdom. These unnecessary wisdoms, disturb us from that connection and renewal of Teshuva. This, he says, is the evil of פַּרְעֹה, who disturbs and interrupts the connection of holiness. Likes פַּרְעֹה said, “לָמָּה…תַּפְרִיעוּ אֶת הָעָם”, why are you disturbing the people? The words פַּרְעֹה and תַּפְרִיעוּ have the same root, because the evil in the world that tries to interrupt us from connection (think cell phones😱) is Pharaoh’s evil.

But it’s not enough to merely guard oneself from extraneous intellect. We need to renew our intellect all the time. How do we do that? Says the Rebbe, through sleep a person renews his mind and soul.


When we sleep, our souls rise and travel to Chokhmah, the core of creation. This is the place where the world is recreating all the time. In order to renew our minds, and serve Hashem with a fresh perspective, we need to renew in the place of Chokhmah too.

The way that the soul travels to Chokhmah is with faith (the emanation of Malchus). Faith only starts at the point where wisdom can no longer comprehend. So when we go to sleep, and our minds are inactive, faith is what elevates our soul to a Divine state of evolving, renewing Wisdom. Even the little ounce of faith one has by going to sleep and relying on the Creator to wake him the next day propels the soul to renew at its core.

Of course, says Reb Nosson, this is why we proclaim the Shema Yisrael before we retire at night. We want to strengthen our faith, so that Malchus can escort our souls to Chokhmah.

Rebbe Nachman brings two other examples of sleep, that rejuvenates our minds/souls, so they can feel renewed again. The first type of sleep is learning the simple, plain meaning of the Torah. The Zohar (III. 244b) calls the study of Mishna and Talmud an aspect of sleep, in comparison to the mysteries of Kabbalah.  This is because Kabbalah explores the deepest insights of the Torah and reveals how Hashem can be found in every aspect of creation. On the surface of the Mishna and Talmud one only see laws, anecdotes and lessons for daily living. So Mishna is an aspect of Malchus (or faith) in comparison to Kabbalah, which corresponds to Chokhmah. One exhibits faith when delving into the intricacies of the law, because it’s not readily apparent how he is understanding the Creator in a deeper way.

The other type of sleep the Rebbe teaches about is doing business honestly, מַשָּׂא וּמַתָּן בֶּאֱמוּנָה.  When we act fairly in business, our minds enter faith and find renewal there. We cannot understand, with our intellect, how we are ultimately benefitting when we give up on profit that could have easily been ours had we not acted honestly. But with faith, we believe that we will get whatever is due us. That act of faith allows the renewal of our minds and souls.

Faith is what drives us to renew, at our core and it’s not only available for the greatest Tzaddikim. By reciting the Shema before we retire, learning the Torah in its plain meaning or acting honestly in our business dealings, we will renew, connecting to the ever-changing world in a deeper, truer way.

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