Rabbi Noson of Breslov, Likutei Halachot, Yore De’ah, Laws of Honoring your Teacher
[reflecting on the meaning of ] rising and honoring an elder and the fear and honor due to one’s teacher
Based upon the teaching of [Rabbi Nachman of Breslav in Likutei Moharan 1,22], that there is an aspect of “let us do” and”let us hear”, which are the aspect of something manifest and something hidden, the aspect of Torah and prayer… And what we learn from that teaching is that that which is manifest is the aspect of “let us do”, and that which is hidden is the aspect of “let us hear”, the aspect of prayer, corresponding to bereshit – yere boshet [fear and shame] , the aspect of standing, God’s Torah. And everyone must make of “let us hear” “let us do”, that is that he should merit to attain and understand the apect of that which is hidden, which is the aspect of “let us hear”, the aspect of prayer, that from the “let us hear” will be made “let us do”, from that which is hidden [should be made] that which is revealed.
- Now, what one receives from the teacher is the aspect that he enlightens his eyes, and brings into him the aspect of the “let us hear”, the aspect of that which is hidden, to make it for him (the student) the aspect of that which is revealed. Because the teacher reveals that which is hidden, and explains to him all things that are concealed (or not understood) and hidden from him, those things that were previously in the aspect of “let us hear”, the aspect of that which was hidden from him. And through the teacher that which was hidden from him becomes revealed to him. And this is why the disciple must fear his teacher, because there, n the aspect of the teacher, is the aspect of fear, which is bereshit – yere boshet, the aspect of prayer, the aspect of the hidden. Because the teacher in relation to the student is the aspect of that which is hidden, the aspect of “let us hear”, the aspect of fear (or: awe). Because the attainment of the teacher is hidden for the student and through the teacher that which was hidden from him becomes revealed to the student. And therefore a student must have fear (or: awe) before his teacher, because there is the place of fear, the aspect of that which is hidden, prayer, “let us hear”, bereshit – yere boshet.
And therefore he (the student) must arise before the teacher. For there, in the aspect of the teacher is the aspect of standing, which is the aspect of the hiddden, “let us hear”, prayer, standing, as explained there.
- And this is the aspect of arising before a sage and an elder. Because an elder is someone who has attained wisdom, specifically as expressed in the etymology of acquire, that is that he acquired and attained that which was hidden from him, that he attained through efforts to the aspect of “let us hear”, that which is hidden, making it “let us do”, through which he acquired wisdom to become his own. Because initially it was God’s torah and now it is his own torah. Because “let us hear”, the asspect of that which is hidden is the aspect of God’s Torah. And the “let us do” is the aspect of that which is revealed, his own Torah, and when he merits to attain that which ishidden, then from God’s Torah is made his own Torah, and that is wy the elder is called the one who has acquired wisdom, acquired indeed. Because he has acquired it become his own, that it should be called his own Torah, having labroed and found and made of the “let us hear” “let us do” from the hidden the revealed, from God’s Torah his own Torah. And this is why one must stand up befoer him, becaus having attained the aspect of “let us hear”, because he attained the aspect of that which is hidden, which is “let us hear”, which is the aspect of standing, therefore one must stand before him, because there, in the aspect of “let us hear” is the aspect of standing.
[the subject of] honor due to his teacher and standing and honoring a sage
- Based upon the teaching of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav in Likutey Moharan part 2,8, see there sub sections 5, 7 and 8, where it is explained that through honr comes the spreading forth of prophecy, and through prophecy the imaginative power is purified, and through the purification of the imagination one attains full faith. And for this one must seek out a leader, who is a true zaddik,, to come close to him. Because very leader has an aspect of the spirit of prophecy. And even now, when prophecy no longer exists, nevertheless every leader has some aspect of the holy spirit, which is an aspect of prophecy, through which the imaginative power is purified, through which is the foundation of the keeping of faith, which is the foundation of everything.
- So, we thus learn that the foundation of coming close to the true teacher is in order to attain faith, which is the main thing one attains through the holy spirit of one’s teacher, through which the imagination is purified, through which one attains faith. And this holy spirit, the aspect of the spirit of prophecy, the teacher receives through the revelation of honor (or:glory). And this is why one is obligated to honor one’s teacher, to treat him with great respect. Because their honor is God’s honor. And through the honor that one honors one’s teacher grows the aspect of drawing forth the holy spirit, the spirit of prophecy of his teacher, that is drawn forth through honor. And thereby the imagination is purified and one attains faith, which is the main thing one must receive from one’s teacher. And this is what our master (Rabbi Nachman) wrote in 1,126 that we find that wherever the friends praised Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai (attributed author of the Zohar) he revealed to them further teachings. Because by having praised him and increasing his honor, thereby his holy spirit was made greater and larger. And thereby he revealed further teachings, in his holy spirit that was made greater through this honor.
Let us hear and let us do
The first lesson was led by Alon Goshen-Gottstein. He presented us the teaching of rabbi Noson of Breclov (taken from the text: Likutei Halachot, Yore De’ah, Laws of Honoring your Teacher). This teaching was based on the teaching of rabbi Nachman of Breclav (contained in the text: Likutei Moharan 1,22) concerning the relationship between teacher and disciple in Jewish tradition.
According to the presenter, Hebrew Bible does not contain established, systematized teaching on teacher–disciple relationship. This is why rabbis in their spiritual interpretation of the Bible had connected the two strands of biblical teachings. The first one concerns Israel’s answer to the God’s act of giving the Tora. The second one describes the proper attitude towards the elder.
According to the rabbis, the teacher-disciple relationship is inscribed in the process of rising the intellect to higher and higher level of consciousness. The level attained by the disciple is referred to as “let us do” level, i.e. the level of what is manifest and grasped by the consciousness of the disciple, and – as grasped – should be done. The level s/he is striving to attain is referred to as “let us hear” level, i.e. the level of what is hidden from the disciple consciousness, and – as hidden – is to be revealed by God and heard in the act of prayer by the human person. One cannot, however, hear of what is to be revealed without the help of the teacher. This is the teacher who having heard and assimilated what is hidden from the disciple (made he/his own what had been God’s) deservers the awe from the part of the disciple (symbolized by the obligation to stand before the teacher.) The attitude of awe purifies disciple’s consciousness opens up the disciple to what is hidden.
The presentation was followed by comments and questions. Some of them concerned the terminological problems: the advantages of speaking in terms of rising rather than of standing before the teacher; and the existence of the distinction (in Arabic) vs. the lack of the distinction (in Hebrew) between the notions of fear and awe. Other remarks, comments and questions concerned the relationship between words (as only pointers) and the reality (as the proper subject of deeper and deeper understanding).
The last topic of the lesson was the discussion on different models of the relationship between contemplation and action – the topic suggested by the crucial formulas (“let us do”, “let us hear”) used by the rabbis.