There is a lot of interest today in a part of the Torah which is becoming more and more revealed in our time, Penimiyus HaTorah, the inner light of the Torah. What does the inner light of the Torah mean? What does it mean to learn the inner light? Is this part of the Torah for everyone?
In lesson 33 in part one of Likutei Moharan, Rebbe Nachman explains that the inner light of the Torah is Hashem’s presence. Hashem put His light inside the Torah. It is the Godliness which is found inside the Torah and its middos, the character traits taught by Torah and the specific details of each mitzvah. In the inner light of the Torah, Hashem’s presence can be felt and discovered.
Rebbe Nachman also teaches in Likutei Moharan, (7th teaching, Part Two) that a true tzaddik, a true leader like Moshe Rabbeinu, has mercy on the Jewish people. He is always trying to help them correct their ways and return to Hashem. The heaviest burden that a person can carry is the burden of sin. The Jewish soul, due to its special holiness, cannot bear this burden. The tzaddik helps the Jewish people have true knowledge and awe of Heaven, and this helps them leave behind their sins. The only reason a person falls into sin is due to foolishness – they lack knowledge that Hashem is the King and that He rules over everything. They do not feel or experience His presence in that moment of sin. The tzaddik reveals to the Jewish people the true knowledge of God. He is also able to reach each person, on whatever low level they might find themselves on, and show them that no matter what, Hashem is still with them and close to them. He strengthens them not to despair, in any situation.
Yaakov Klein explains this concept in his incredible new book, The Story of Our Lives, an elucidation of Rebbe Nachman’s famous tale – “The Lost Princess”. The tzaddikim make it possible for every Jew to connect to the awesome, inner light of the Torah. That is their task and their mission. The tzaddik’s entire mission is to help Jews escape the cycles of lowliness and sin mentioned above, by granting them access to the inner wisdom of the Torah. (The Story of Our Lives, pages 239-240)
During this month of Iyar, we have one of the most special days on the Jewish calendar, Lag Ba’Omer, the celebration of the yahrzeit of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai. It is such an incredible experience to be there, in Meron, on Lag Ba’Omer.
Rebbe Shimon was one of the great sages of the period of the Mishna, and the author of the Holy Zohar. Why do we celebrate the passing of this great tzaddik? Why does his celebration draw so many thousands of Jews, of every different type you could imagine, to the small town of Meron in Northern Israel? There are certain tzaddikim who are so great that any Jew can connect to them, because these tzaddikim are connected to the souls of all of the Jewish people. They are like the root of the tree, while we are like the branches. They see every single person’s soul, and they see what their special purpose is in the world. One of these exalted tsaddikim was Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai. He reveled the inner, hidden light of the Torah that was hidden away since it was given to Moshe at Mt. Sinai. On Lag Ba’Omer, we are celebrating the awesome light of the Holy Zohar that he revealed in the world. His book, the Zohar HaKadosh, is a powerful revelation of true knowledge and true faith in Hashem. Rebbe Shimon said that through his work, the Zohar, the Jewish people would leave the exile with mercy. The light of his book, the Zohar, heals the Jewish souls from the suffering of exile and helps them hold on strong until the final redemption.
At the beginning of Rebbe Nachman’s magnum opus, Likutei Moharan, before the first teaching and after the introduction, there is short teaching about the greatness of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai. This teaching explains that through the light of Rebbe Shimon, the Torah will not be forgotten from the Jewish people. Through the light of the Zohar, the Jewish people will leave the exile.
Why did Rebbe Nachman choose to begin his book with this teaching? In the book The Life of Rebbe Nachman (#189) the connection between these two great tzaddikim is explained further. On his way from Breslov to Uman at the end of his life, after revealing this teaching about Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai, Rebbe Nachman stated, “And now there is ‘the source of wisdom… a flowing stream.’”(Proverbs, Chapter 18, Verse 4) In these words, Rebbe Nachman revealed that he came into the world to continue revealing the light of Rebbe Shimon in a new way. He came to shine the light of the Zohar for our generation and show every Jew how much precious and holy we are. He wants to help every one of us to rectify what we need to rectify in our lifetime by revealing the practical advice that emerges from the teachings of the Zohar and other kabbalistic works.
Rebbe Nachman, just like his great-grandfather the holy Baal Shem Tov, is revealing the inner light of the Torah to every single person on their level. This is the greatness of the true tzaddikim. There is no person, no matter what they might have done, whom they cannot help return to Hashem. Rebbe Nachman famously said, “My fire will burn until the coming of Mashiach.” His fire warms our souls in the darkness of the exile that we still find ourselves in. His fire also illuminates our eyes to understand how to serve Hashem even in these challenging times.
Through the powerful inner light that these great tzaddikim make accessible to us, we are able to live with more emunah (faith) and more mindfulness. They reveal to every person on their level a deeper knowledge, that Hashem loves us deeply, and that He is right here with us!
R’ Moshe Neveloff is the director of https://breslov.blog/, a beautiful website filled with articles and other educational resources.