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When a person experiences difficulties in life, capsule it is an opportunity to reach the spiritual root of the matter, approved and sweeten the harsh judgments there. The meaning of contraction (???????) during these life trials—as Rebbe Nachman explains[1]—relates to a person who is stuck in a situation with no apparent way out.

If someone is in need of good advice, buy the first place he should turn to is a tzadik. It could be that he is troubled by some problem at home, or with his livelihood; in either case, he is in a state of contraction. This is a very straightforward explanation of what harsh judgments (????????) are. If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what to do, seek a tzadik who can pull you out of your predicament.

Shedding Light on the Situation

The only thing that can truly help is someone who has an inner insight into what is going on. There is always one particular insight that can free a person from the straits of his contraction. And if the tzadik can find it, he will have sweetened the harsh judgments at their source.

But, above any particular insight is the fact that a genuine tzadik also represents an all-inclusive mind.[2] The all-inclusive tzadik is able to solve all the “contractions” (???????????) of all the people living in his generation.       

The reason why he can sweeten harsh judgments is because he already has each contraction “inscribed on him.” The tzadik knows about the issue already, and in some ways, was always waiting for this person to come to him to verbalize his hardships.

All-Inclusive Rectification

A Chassidic dictum states that when someone comes to ask for advice from a genuine tzadik, the tzadik needs to first find the same problem within himself. Even though the tzadik’s version of the problem exists in a much more delicate way, the tzadik should feel that he is not giving advice to another individual, but to an aspect of himself. Since he is an all-inclusive soul, he has the residual markings of all people on him; including this person before him now.

The fact that this person came asking for advice, naturally gives the tzadik great joy. It is this joy that enables the tzadik to give the correct advice, and ultimately achieve complete rectification.[3]

Adapted from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, 17 Tishrei 5773, in the sukah of the Chut Shel Chesed Yeshivah, Jerusalem

[1] Likutei Moharan I 143.

[2] Indeed, the value of “an all-inclusive mind” (?????? ?????????) equals “truth,” or “genuine” (?????).

[3] [Editor’s Note: Private messages may be sent to Harav Ginsburgh by email to: HaravYGinsburghSecretariat [at] gmail.com. Although all email is delivered and read promptly by the Rav, most of the responses (when required) are stylized and sent out by the Rav’s secretariat. Because of the large amount of work for which the secretariat is responsible, we cannot promise a prompt response.]

Nurturing a Face-to-Face Relationship

Kabbalah teaches us that before God “sawed” Adam and Eve apart, more about
site [1] Adam’s male side was back-to-back with his female side. Psychologically speaking, unhealthy this is also the level of consciousness that most marriages begin with; each spouse being unaware of the other’s needs, advice emotions, and expectations. Clearly, if we are looking to create truly meaningful relationships—beginning with our soul-mate—we must learn to communicate with others in a face-to-face manner.

In a back-to-back relationship, each partner is involved in fulfilling their own interests. Although each participant is physically in the relationship, they are both in very distant places emotionally. By contrast, in a face-to-face relationship, each person carefully takes the needs and considerations of the other into account. In a marriage, this involves taking a real and concentrated interest in the welfare of one’s spouse.

While each person’s back is more or less identical, the face is unique and exclusive to every individual. Thus the psychological state of living “back-to-back” indicates a lack of interest in the uniqueness of the other; or a general insensitivity to the relationship as a whole.


In a back-to-back relationship, a “good” partner is defined as one who fulfills his basic obligations. In a marriage, this means being a ”good” wife or a “good” husband, but not necessarily focusing on the uniqueness of the other. Both partners are playing according to the rules, without focusing on the “facial features,” or personality traits that make them different from all others. In such personal interactions, public perceptions, and social mores also greatly shape the relationship. Since each partner is focused on the superficial aspects (or back-side) of the other, they are also far more concerned with how the relationship as a whole appears to others. Unfortunately, as we have witnessed too many times, this outward focused mindset may also (God forbid) lead to disloyalty to the relationship itself.

Fostering Personal Consciousness

By contrast, when there is face-to-face consciousness, the focus is on the spouse’s best interests and wellbeing. Instead of fulfilling the basic obligations, and demanding my own “rights” in return, the only way to truly relate to their essential character, is by having their innermost considerations in mind. This of course includes both the spouse’s physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as the willingness to direct my own behavior to meet them on their own ground. By redirecting my orientation solely to the true nature of my partner, I will also merit the ultimate pleasure of seeing them happy in the relationship.

Translated and adapted from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s book in Hebrew, Yayin Mesameach, vol. 1 p. 39

[1] Genesis 2:21.

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