There are three different stages in drawing closer to the Tzaddikim. By working through each stage it is possible to achieve the perfect tikkun. —Advice (Likutey Eitzos, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)
To achieve your Tikkun it is beneficial to draw closer to the Tzaddikim. How do you know if you’re on the right path?
You begin to see a change in who you are.
The expression “people can’t change” does not apply to Judaism. The Torah asks us to change, change is our individual obligation.
Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have participated in conversations with four very different women, each of whom, by drawing closer to the Tzaddik, has found their own unique path to personal change. Radical personal change.
By following the Tzaddik’s teachings, we’ve become more positive, more forgiving, and feel that we have a tangible relationship with Hashem. And between us, we’ve probably gotten rid of enough of bad traits to populate a soap opera.
(Yes, we’re still working on them, and they might crop up from time to time.)
Path of Holiness
The Rebbe tells us that if want to move forward along the path of holiness, we must break our bad traits. He doesn’t say accept them and make peace with them, he doesn’t say use these traits in creative ways, he says to break them.
This doesn’t sound so warm and fuzzy and Azamra-ish.
But the truth is, this is exactly what we sometimes need to hear. We do have some less-than-stellar qualities and we are able to rid ourselves of them and change for the better.
There are several practices that are needed for change, perhaps the most elemental being:
Hisbodedus, prayerful meditation, which is in essence talking to Hashem in your own words, straight from the heart, and as it concerns personal growth and achieving your tikkun, discussing this with Hashem and asking Him for His assistance. Make a self-assessment part of your preparation for hisbodedus, too.
There are also three stages necessary to rout out our specific bad traits, as outlined by the Rebbe in Advice.
Stage One: See the Tzaddik
When we see the Tzaddik we eliminate the bad traits rooted in the mineral and vegetable domains.
Associated with the mineral world are laziness, inertia, lack of desire to do and achieve, especially as this regards spiritual change, personal growth.
Associated with the vegetable world are evil desires, unhealthy cravings, pleasures that consume us and block our connection to our nefesh elokis and yetzer tov, the spiritual intellect and the good inclination within.
If we can’t see the Tzaddikin in person because they’re not alive, go to their resting place. Go to Uman. Pray by the tziyun. See his students and seek their advice. Learn with them. Learn Breslov seforim.
Stage Two: Give charity to the Torah Scholar (Tzaddik)
When we give charity to the Sage we are released from the bad traits rooted in the animal and human domains.
Associated with the animal domain are wasting time, idling our lives away with nonsense, and malicious gossip (both truthful and untruthful).
Associated with the human domain are pride, arrogance, treating others as less worthy, manipulating others.
Ask for guidance about the laws of giving charity. Also, going to Uman and giving a peruta (a small coin, ask a Rav what today’s peruta is equivalent to), saying a wholehearted Tikkun Haklali (Ten specific Chapters of Psalms known as the complete rectification) assured of the Rebbe’s promise: “Whoever comes to my grave, recites Tikkun Haklali, and gives something to charity, I will extend myself the length and breadth of Creation for him; by his peyos (sidelocks), I will pull him out of Gehinnom!” Yes, this does include women.
Stage Three: Talk to the Tzaddik about your transgressions
When the Tzaddik hears what your regrets are, what needs to be corrected, and so on, he can guide you on the correct path specific to your unique soul root. This is the most important stage because through verbal confession you can be saved from everything.
You can visit Uman, or find a holy rav and discuss your situation with him, asking him for guidance on how to correct your past and move forward. If you can’t find someone to speak to, do your best to talk about your transgressions in hisbodedus and do teshuvah for them. Ask Hashem to help you find ways to rectify the wrongs. Take the required actions to right wrongs as well as allow your heart to feel remorse. Then, move forward with joy.
Never Give Up & Start Anew
The Rebbe tells us, emphatically, to never give up. He tells us that desire can fuel our personal change. We need to want to change, and we need honesty.
So, if you mess up, start again.
Working on your temper and lost it? That’s okay, take a deep breath (apologize) and start over.
Trying to listen to others instead of talking over them? Don’t worry if you aren’t perfect, just start over.
Wish you were a little more exacting with the truth and found yourself not being 100 percent honest? That’s okay, you’re human. You can always start anew, with more resolve this time.
We need to look at the good points inside ourselves true. But when we’re strong enough, we need to take a look at the not-so-good points and say: I don’t want to be a slave to these negative traits.
Connect with the Tzaddik, learn what he has to teach, and make radical positive change a reality.
Recommended reading: A collection of the Rebbe’s advice in pithy, relevant paragraphs, Likutey Eitzos. (Advice)
L’ilui nishmas Dov ben Nachum.