20 Tamuz 5779 / Tuesday, July 23, 2019 | Torah Reading: mattot
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The Snake's Torah    

The Snake's Torah

We're all born with that 'Snake Torah' pre-installed on our hard-drives. It's that self-critical part of us that likes to focus on the bad in us and everyone else...


I'm currently reading a great book called: 'Nahal Kadmonim' (something like 'the Primordial River'), by Rav Ofer Erez, a colleague of Rav Arush, and a big Breslev educator in his own right.
The book brings down some of the loftiest Torah concepts I've ever learned, and clothes them in deceivingly simple language. Rebbe Nachman himself taught that simplicity is always a hallmark of genuine Torah and spiritual greatness. He explains that the 'Jewish Demon Scholars' who are only teaching Torah for their only honour and 'personal power' usually speak in complicated parables and flowery language. Their Torah all sounds very complicated and 'lofty' and 'clever', but ultimately, it's worse than worthless. Why? Because there is no such thing as 'neutral' Torah; Torah is either the 'potion of life' or the 'potion of death' - and there's nothing in between.
If we're getting our Torah from a bad source, it will poison us spiritually just as surely as if we'd eaten a whole plate of arsenic.
In the book, Rav Erez tells over an amazing teaching about 'Snake Torah'. As most of us know, Adam and Eve were not meant to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, in the Garden of Eden.
That source of primordial evil, the Snake, showed up and convinced them to eat, because then, 'they would be like G-d'. As Rav Arush explains at length in his book The Garden of Knowledge, the whole of mankind has been busy trying to rectify that massive sin for the last 5774 years.
When Adam ate from the tree, bad stopped being something 'external' to mankind, and become an integral part of our spiritual make-up. Rav Ofer explains that this evil part of us, this snake part of us, also learns Torah. It also quotes Torah. It also teaches Torah. And what Torah does it teach us? All the stuff about how bad we are; and how we don't have a hope of ever fixing ourselves; and how we are so far away from spiritual perfection, that we may as well give up now, because it's going to take us 24,000 years in Gehinnom (hell) just to fix even a single lifetime.
Rav Erez explains that today, we're all born with that 'Snake Torah' pre-installed on our hard-drives. It's that self-critical part of us that likes to focus on the bad in us and everyone else, and loves making us all sad and depressed.
What's the antidote to 'Snake Torah'? Simple: 'Tzadik Torah'. Rav Erez explains that Tzadik Torah has to be acquired; it has to be learned, practised and applied, and that it's the only way to overcome 'Snake Torah'.
And the key to Tzadik Torah is also quite simple: we just have to believe it. When Rebbe Nachman teaches us, for example, that we shouldn't rebuke others (or ourselves), and that we need to look for our good points, we need to believe him. When he teaches us that: 'There is no despair in the world!' - we need to believe him. When he tells us that an hour of hitbodedut a day is the only way to fix everything we need fixing as quickly, easily and painlessly as possible - we need to do it.
And if we don't? We'll get mired in the 'Snake Torah' that tells people 'holy anger' is a good thing; or that your football game is more important than spending time with your wife; or that you can change yourself and fix yourself without any help from G-d.
How do we know, if something is 'Snake Torah' or 'Tzadik Torah'? This is where things can get complicated, but let's try and boil it down to a few rules of thumb:
1) Tzadik Torah is simple - if Rebbe Nachman writes brazen people are going to hell, he means it. If Rav Arush writes that children are just the mirrors of their parents, then it's a fact. If you can't find what you're being told explicitly in our holy books - or if you're being told the exact opposite - then the chances are high you are dealing with Snake Torah.
2)  Tzadik Torah makes people happy - Snake Torah often sounds 'sweet' at first hearing, like the fake chemical high you get from drinking a Coke. But if it's not causing profoundly positive spiritual changes over time, then it's Snake Torah.
3) Tzadik Torah encourages people to put G-d centre stage - if people rarely refer to G-d; if they don't explain how G-d is the only solution; if they talk about themselves and their ideas and their solutions much more than they talk about G-d - you're probably dealing with Snake Torah.
4) Tzadik Torah breeds humility - Snake Torah people sometimes act humble, when it's suits them, but real humility can't be faked. When a person is truly humble, they don't get angry; they aren't manipulative and controlling; they don't try and shame or coerce other people; and they have patience, emuna and true inner peace. You only get this by learning and living genuine Tzadik Torah.
Beware cheap imitationsssssss.
* * *
You're welcome to write Rivka Levy at rivkawritesback@gmail.com

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