In 1822 Reb Nosson made the courageous pilgrimage to Israel. While there he visited the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mt. Meron. As an authentic master in the writings of Kabbala, one can only imagine how excited Reb Nosson was to visit the holy site of this great Kabbalist. But in his autobiography Reb Nosson writes that when he got there he was feeling very weak and he wasn’t able pray as he had hoped. Never the less he didn’t let himself feel dejected, visiting other grave sites that day, and slowly but surely coming back to himself and praying Mincha with great joy!
Rebbe Nachman teaches in Torah 6 that if a person wants to consistently be in the glorious process of Returning to God, he needs to be an ‘Expert in Halacha‘. Halacha literally means to go. One who’s an expert in Jewish Law knows exactly where he can go and where he can’t; What he can do and what he can’t. Although the Rebbe was a big proponent of learning Halacha, the phrase ‘Expert in Halacha‘ here is a play-on-words. What he was really referring to is the subtle craft of knowing when to ‘move forward’ and when to ‘come back’.
You see life is full of ups and downs! All too often we simply can’t influence the circumstances around us, so we need to react appropriately. When we feel brimming with energy and desire, we should attempt to embark on new journeys and increase our workload. But when we’re in a low state of consciousness, we need to just ‘hold on for dear life’ and not expect too much from ourselves. Some people are afraid to accept the challenges when it’s time to move-on and others feel demoralized when they hit a wall, stubbornly banging on it and experiencing unnecessary guilt. It’s truly an expertise to know when to advance and when to retreat.
King David sings:
“אם אסק שמים, שם אתה”
“If I ascend to Heaven, You’re there” (as if to say, I’m with You when I rise).
“ואציעה שאול, הנך”
“And if I descend to the lowest places, there You are”! (Meaning, You sustain me even when I’m low).