By Rav Eliezer Berland Shlit”a
“And he led the sheep after the desert.” (Shmos 3:1)
There is a diamond and the diamond is inside of a box. There is a man who spends his entire day renovating the box, polishing it and caring for it. But what about the diamond itself? The main thing is the diamond! The main thing is the neshama!
The Torah says that Moshe Rabbenu used to herd his sheep after the desert. What does this mean, “after the desert?” What does it mean, “And he went after the dessert”? What, Moshe went to look for better grass for the sheep to graze? Rabbi Avraham, son of the Rambam says, “Moshe went in search for a desert beyond the desert.” He was not satisfied with just any desert; he was seeking a desert far from all other deserts, one that no one ever travels through, one that no foot ever treads upon. Only there could he come to his shleimus – completeness, to truly cling to Hashem, to know that “ein od milvado” – there is none other than Him, to know that he has no ties to this world – the Olam Hazeh – to anything materialistic. He wanted to come to self nullification before the Supreme.
A person must strip himself from all gashmius – materialism, and know that there is no gashmius, there is no world – this world is a dream, it is no more than imagination. The Zohar Hakadosh (in Parshas Shlach) says that in the future, there will be nothing left of this world – nothing at all! Not one hair will remain! No houses, no assets, no troubles, nothing will remain of this world! As long as a person has even one memory left of this world, he cannot complete his tikkun (rectification), unless he is given troubles and sufferings to purify him from the lusts of this world, from the hallucinations of the Olam Hazeh, until he forgets it all, until he has not one memory left of this world (no connections or ties to this world). A person cannot enter the Olam Haba (World to Come) if he has anything left from his body and from this world in general. In the Olam Haba there are no houses, there is no food, nothing! Everything is going to be completely different. The body will turn into a neshama and nothing else will remain of this world.
A story was told about “Rabbi Shimshon of the forest”, a Breslover Chassid who served Hashem day and night with such passion and strength to the point that he suddenly fell and passed away. One night, he came to Reb Avraham Berenyu, a grandson of Rabbenu, in a dream and told him the story of his passing. “Reb Nosson came and took me to Rabenu Hakadosh. The Rebbe said to me, ‘who says you are a Breslover Chassid? You were in Uman, you went to my gravesite, you did a messirus nefesh, it’s all true! But to be a Breslover Chassid is not so simple, it doesn’t come so easily. I have a notepad here, let’s look into it and see.’ The Rebbe looked into his notepad and said, ‘it’s okay, you’re in my notepad, so you are a Breslover Chassid. But you still smell of the Olam Hazeh!’ So long as a person has something left from the Olam Hazeh, some point that binds him to this world, a smell of gashmius, of ta’avas for this world (lusts and desires), he cannot come to his place in Heaven. Two angels came along then and took me to the river “Dinor”, a river of fire and immersed me. What can I say? How can I describe the extent of the suffering and pain I experienced in that river? Unimaginable and unthinkable. There is no such pain in this world. However, the extent of the pleasure one feels after being cleansed in that river is also beyond description. After immersing in the river, Reb Nosson took me back to Rabbenu. The Rebbe replied, “You still have a smell of the Olam Hazeh. Go immerse once more! One must have no faith at all in the Olam Hazeh, no connection whatsoever to this world! Until the person rids himself from all the impurities and contaminations of this world, he cannot enter the Olam Haba. Reb Nosson took me to immerse once again in the river of fire. Upon returning to Rabbenu, he declared, “indeed, you are now purified.”
We all want a life of eternity. The body is just a box; the body is a box for the neshama. Why did Hashem create for us a body? This is only to prevent the neshama from going up (to Heaven) before its time. The neshama has no desire at all to be in this world, it always wants to return to Shamayim, to its source. It has no connection to this world at all. Again it is forced to eat, again it is forced to drink – it is fed up! The person must eat because if he doesn’t, his neshama will escape and return up above to its source. The neshama has no desire at all to be down here! 120 years is all too much, as far as the neshama is concerned. It can’t take anymore down here, it wants to leave. It will last until 120 years but only through eating. This is why we must look after the needs of our body. Yet the body is really just a box for the neshama. It’s like a diamond inside of a box and there is a person who spends his days looking after the box, fixing it up, caring for it, that’s all very nice, but what will be with the diamond?! The most important thing is the diamond! The main thing is the neshama! Fix up the diamond! Polish it! You are a G-dly creation! Why are you polishing up the box? Why? So that it will shine? You waste your life polishing it, in the end it won’t shine anymore because you’ll have polished it too much. Nothing will remain from the body – from the box. That box serves as a cover; it is the cover for the diamond!
You must seek out that diamond. Every person has two ways to go, as it says in the Torah, “See that I have given to you life and goodness, death and evil… and you shall choose life.” Does man really need to be told not to choose death?! Who chooses death?! Rather, this is to show us that here in this world, everything is confused, everything is topsy turvey. Death appears to be life. Materialism and lusts appear to a person to be a good life, where as life – prayer and the Torah Hakedosha appear to people as death! This is why the Torah warns us to beware: What you may think is life is actually death – beware! You could die! “And you shall choose life” – choose the Torah, kedusha and purity. Every person is fighting long and difficult battles. So many people have entered kedusha and avodas Hashem and many could not withstand the nissyonos (trials); they couldn’t hold on. As soon as the evil thoughts and desires enter the person’s mind, the person breaks and thinks, “Perhaps this way is not really for me?”
What, you have another way?! “And you shall choose life”, there is good and there is bad. There is no middle. There is no such thing as, “This is not right for me.” If you are not choosing life then you are choosing death! You might fall and leave the Torah way, see forbidden sights, etc. That is why you must choose life.
Truthfully, if a person wants to come close to Hashem, if he would just want this, nothing stands in the way of true desire. Nothing can stand in the way of a G-dly desire. Whatever the person desires, he will achieve, as Reb Nosson says in Likutei Halachos, “People who wanted to get rich traveled to diamond mines; they travel across distances, through jungles, facing Indians, across deserts… most of these people were killed along the way. They gave their lives to travel far in order to earn a kilo of gold or a kilo of diamonds. So a person won’t go through such a messirus nefesh for the sake of Hashem? For the sake of kedusha?’ We can learn a lesson from the Sitra Achra (the Evil Side). Look how hard people work for the Sitra Achra! University students sit day and night learning, barely sleeping for the sake of nonsense, for a temporary world. So we can’t sit and learn Torah for the sake of Hakadosh Baruch Hu? We can’t make an effort?