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The sin of the Golden Calf is a sin of a lack of patience.[1] The Jewish People were waiting for Moses to descend from Mt. Sinai and they thought that his descent had been delayed, pills “And the people saw that Moses was late in descending from the mountain and the people crowded around Aaron and said to him, ‘Rise and make a god for us.’” It certainly wasn’t easy to wait for so long. Immediately after the revelation at Mt. Sinai, Moses ascended the mountain, entered the fog where God was, and left us down below in tense expectation. Another day and another day went by, forty days had already passed, and our patience snapped. How much longer could we wait? Even the sages stated (as Rashi quotes) that before his ascent Moses had told them that he would not return for another forty days. Yet, forty days had already passed and there was no sign of life from Moses. What would be?

Apparently, God wanted to put us to the test of patience. There are many who stood up to the test, but irritability had set in at the edge of the camp, as it says, “And the people saw” and everywhere that it says “the people” (?????) and not “the Children of Israel” (?????? ??????????) it is referring to the simple folk, and even to the “mixed multitude” who left Egypt with the Jewish People. Aaron was patient and he tried to bide his time: first he told them to bring their jewelry… then he built an altar… and finally, he proclaimed, “There will be a festival for God tomorrow.” But, it was impossible to restrain the hurrying sinners, “And they rose early in the morning” and the dancing immediately began. By the time Moses arrived it was already too late.

The History of Impulsiveness

This was not the first time that a lack of patience had led to tragedy; neither would it be the last. In fact, historical tragedies as a whole seems to be the result of impulsiveness, and if people would just wait a little longer, everything would look completely different.[2]

The first sin in the history of mankind stemmed from a lack of patience. If Adam and Eve had just waited a few more hours, until sunset on Friday evening, and the beginning of the first Shabbat, they would have been permitted to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. But, it isn’t easy to wait; such a succulent fruit that looks so tempting just asks us to eat it right away; especially when the snake nags us that “nothing will happen.”

Nor did King Saul pass the test of waiting for the prophet Samuel. It was indeed a difficult trial. The Philistines had gathered for war and the Jewish soldiers had fled for their lives except for Saul and a handful of his faithful followers. Saul’s patience snapped and he offered up the sacrifice, then Samuel arrived and told him, “And now, your kingdom shall not be established.”[3] You failed the test.

Even King David was no exception. The sages state, “Bathsheba was predestined for David, but he ate her unripe [i.e., he took her prematurely].”[4] Instead of waiting patiently for her to be ready for him, like a sweet ripe fruit, he snatched and “ate” her like an unripe fruit and the bitter results speak for themselves.

Patience Man!

Patience and restraint are a central issue in rectifying the psyche. This quality has special significance regarding human relationships, especially between husband and wife. A good marriage begins with patience, with each of the members of the marriage being considerate towards the other and suiting themselves to the other’s pace.

A baby cannot postpone its needs, because for an infant, what he cannot perceive here and now doesn’t exist for him. As we grow up, we begin to understand the secret of patience. Someone who psychologically remains a child can only swap supplying an immediate need for a greater need that comes later. But someone who reaches true adulthood can understand that it is emotionally healthier to act with restraint. Don’t be too quick to flare up in anger but be patient. Don’t be too quick to eat; wash your hands, make a blessing and eat slowly. Don’t jump to conclusions, throwing out words and doing things that you might regret later. Don’t be too quick to act before you know what and how you should be doing it. Don’t be impulsive.

Patience results when the soul is in complete control over the body and the mind is in control of the attributes of the heart. Moreover, patience comes from faith. When we believe that there is Someone up there who is in charge of things, we don’t need to press for them to happen and we know that everything comes through at the right time. But, if it is only my ego that fills my environment, then I become impatient and insist that they happen now, because maybe I will not achieve what I want to.

This is where the fall of the sin of the Golden Calf began. In order to receive the Torah, in order for the Divine Presence to dwell within us, we had to forfeit our instinctive desires and to wait and relax until God appeared. But the people wanted “God Now!” They wanted an approachable, tangible and sparkling god who they could see and dance around; an “instant” Golden Calf who began mooing straight out of the fire [in fact, “calf” (???) in Aramaic means “speed”]. The Jewish People could be appeased, but the mixed multitude was impudent and impulsive and they couldn’t be restrained.

Moses Had Time

We mentioned the sin of the people who couldn’t wait patiently. But, what really happened to Moses while everyone was waiting for him? What delayed him up there on Mt. Sinai? The sages explain that Moses told the Jewish People that he would be back in forty days, but he didn’t intend to include the day of his ascent, because it wasn’t a complete day. However, this caused a misunderstanding, because the Jewish People did count the day of Moses’ ascent, which is how they miscalculated his return by one day.

Moses was super-patient. When he needed it, he took all the time in the world. Just as he knew how to patiently look after his sheep, and only at the age of eighty years old did he go back to Egypt to redeem the Jewish People, so he was capable of being on Mt. Sinai day after day (and even food can wait patiently until Moses descends from the mountain). The Torah is “longer than a measurable land,”[5] and until everything is clear to the finest detail, there is nothing to hurry for. He couldn’t bring back an unfinished product, he had to reach final perfection and only then could he descend. If he needed to be on Mt. Sinai for forty days, then they had to be forty complete days, from beginning to end.

Moses’ patience is related to his humility, as Rashi interprets the phrase, “And the man Moses was very humble? [i.e.,] lowly and patient.”[6] Moses had the positive quality of bashfulness, “The impudent faced go to Hell and the bashful-faced to Paradise.”[7] He wasn’t under any pressure to get anywhere, and even when God sent for him to redeem the Jewish People, he refused again and again, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?”[8]

Don’t Tarry

Yet, there is a limit even to patience. Someone who waits too long will hesitate to act on reality when the right time comes. We can always prepare ourselves better, waiting till the absolutely perfect moment arrives. But, this tendency towards perfectionism is liable to sabotage any positive act, because any abstract idea that is effected in practice becomes limited as soon as it is realized.

Even Moses needed to know when it is good to wait and when we need to take immediate action. In fact, when God first spoke to Moses he made this mistake and refused too many times, until God was angry with him. In our case too, we can hear from the verses a very gentle note of criticism, “Moses was late” for his meeting with the Jewish People; he wanted to be absolutely sure that everything was ready and perhaps was even a little bit bashful[9] of descending with the Torah. Bashfulness, or shyness, can be a positive quality but if it oversteps the limits of good taste it might turn “stale.”[10]

Interestingly, the only other time in the Torah when the root “late” (????????) appears is with reference to Adam and Eve before they sinned, “And they were not bashful” (????? ?????????????).[11] This alludes to the fact that Moses attempted to rectify Adam’s sin of not knowing how to wait, but he went to the other extreme and was too bashful. Careful restraint also requires quick action at the right moment, as in the expression coined by the Ba’al Shem Tov, “deliberate agility” (????????? ????????????). The correct balance between waiting and acting results from integrating Moses’ approach with the approach of the people. Had there been good communication between Moses and the Jewish People, there would have been a balance between Moses’ tendency to wait and the people’s demand that he descend to them at long last. Correct communication between them would have prevented the misunderstanding, and it would have been clear to all how the days should be counted. Good communication would have “transmitted” to Moses, even as he was still up there on Mt. Sinai, the spiritual status of the people below, and he would have known that the time had come for him to descend, before it would be too late.[12]

Positive Impudence

We must use the quality of impudence positively, using it as a catalyzer that promotes restraint while cautioning not to procrastinate too much and get up and get things done. According to the sages there is some criticism on Moses for accepting the impudent mixed multitude as a part of the Jewish People. But, so say the Kabbalists, Moses returns and is reincarnated throughout the generations to rectify their souls. The rectification of the mixed multitude is to use that very same quality of impudence to make an impression on reality without being too bashful, to establish the kingdom of Israel upon earth, and not to suffice with a heavenly Torah and letters that fly through the air.

There is a prohibition against impatiently “pressing for the end [i.e., the final redemption]” (???????? ??? ?????) when it stems from a lack of faith, yet we are now at the end of the redemption and it is forbidden to “distance the end” (?????????? ??? ?????).[13] The same sage who said, “The impudent faced go to Hell” also said, “Be as bold as a tiger.” We do need a touch of bold impudence so that our positive bashfulness will stop hiding behind the walls of the synagogue and will go out to lead reality and rectify the world.

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Adar 11 5772

[1] See also, The Mystery of Marriage ch. 9.

[2] See Shemot Rabah 32:1.

[3] I Samuel 13:14.

[4] Sanhedrin 107a.

[5] Job 11:9.

[6] Numbers 12:3.

[7] Avot 5:20.

[8] Exodus 3:11.

[9] The words for “bashful” (????????) and “late” (?????????) share the same two-lettered “gate” in Hebrew (??).

[10] “To become stale” (???????????) also shares the same two-lettered “gate” as “bashful” (????????) and “late” (?????????).

[11] Genesis 2:25.

[12] See the article, “Who is to Blame for the Sin of the Golden Calf?” in our book in Hebrew, “The Inner Dimension” (???? ??????).

[13] Ketubot 111a; there it states one version that God made the Jewish People swear that they would not “distance the end” and a second version that states, “that they shall not press for the end.”

house of tzadikim

One of the most famous figures in the Chassidic world is Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk, information pills who is also sometimes referred to by the name of the book he authored, information pills Noam Elimelech. Rabbi Elimelech?together with his older brother, treatment Rabbi Zushe?were disciples of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s successor, Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch. Later, Rabbi Elimelech became a Rebbe in his own right—an esteemed Chassidic leader—settling in the Polish town of Lizensk. Some of the greatest Chassidic leaders of Poland were his disciples, such as the Magid of Koznitz, the Seer of Lublin and Rabbi Mendel of Riminov. One might say that the entire Polish “branch” of Chassidut stemmed from Rebbe Elimelech.

His book, Noam Elimelech was published after he had passed away on the 21st Adar 5547 (1787) and immediately became an essential volume in every Chassidic home. Even to the present day, Rebbe Elimelech’s tomb is a place of prayer with many miraculous stories attached to it, and his book Noam Elimelech is highly praised and even used as a segulah (spiritual remedy) by many.

The Book of the Righteous

Of all the Chassidic Rebbes, Rebbe Elimelech represents the model tzadik (righteous individual). In his book the tzadik plays a prominent role, so much so that it is often affectionately referred to as “The Book of the Righteous.” The sages teach that every year on Rosh Hashanah, three books are opened before the Almighty: The Book of the Righteous, The Book of the Intermediates, and The Book of the Wicked. On almost every page of Noam Elimelech, the reader opens to something that relates to the service of the tzadik and how he clings to his Creator to draw down blessing and abundance to the Jewish People.

But, what does a simple Jew do when he learns something from Noam Elimelech at his Shabbat table? He may sit back and admire the level of tzadikim portrayed in the book, delve into the teachings himself, or simply imbibe the scent of sanctity that radiates from this holy book. Another option is that he may also begin to glean from the sparks of advice to reinforce his own service of God. Whichever option plays out, the general impression is that Rebbe Elimelech is not speaking directly to us. The righteous sit and bask in the glow of the Divine Presence, and we have the privilege of watching them, and following in their footsteps.

The Book of Intermediates

We can better understand the high ranking of Noam Elimelech if we compare it to the Tanya, authored by Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi who studied in the same study hall together with Rebbe Elimelech. Unlike the Noam Elimelech, the Tanya is explicitly a systematic guide book for every Jew, as Rebbe Shneur Zalman explains in the introduction. The intention behind authoring the Tanya was that it should be a summary of the personal guidance he would give to those seeking his advice.

In short, Rebbe Shneur Zalman explains that while becoming a tzadik is a gift from heaven, to be an intermediate is something everyone can achieve. The intermediate in the Tanya is not one who is balanced between half mitzvot and half sins, but one who is completely in control of himself (“the mind controls the heart”), and does not transgress even minor sins—neither in deed, nor in speech, and not even in thought! However, despite his apparently righteous behavior, he is called an “intermediate” because he still has a balanced tendency towards both good and evil—the Divine soul and the animal soul. The evil inclination still exists and exerts a strong effort to tempt him to fulfill his desires and evil ideas, but through the power of his free will, and with Divine assistance, a person can and should always lean to the side of good. A true tzadik is not only someone who ceaselessly does good, but even to the depths of his soul, he abhors evil and detests it. As the sages state, he has “killed the evil inclination.” But, the person with both tendencies shouldn’t deceive himself! He should always be prepared for battle so that he can always emerge victorious.

This is why Rebbe Shneur Zalman called his book, “The Book of Intermediates” – it is a guide book for every one of us, who can and should aspire to reach the level of the intermediate. The task of the tzadik is also mentioned in brief in the Tanya,[1]

Because the sustenance and vitality of the psyche, the spirit and the soul of the regular people is from the psyche, the spirit and the soul of the tzadikim and the sages who are the leaders of the Jewish People in their generation.

However, throughout the Tanya, there is no doubt that the individual is expected to serve God by his own drive and momentum. Tzadikim are not here to do the work for him.

While there is no contradiction between the two books, there is a difference in their emphasis. Rebbe Shneur Zalman offers us direct guidance and demands more and more effort from us, while Rebbe Elimelech gives us a glimpse into the world of the tzadik.

Everyone is a Tzadik

In our generation, we need to make a closer connection between Rebbe Elimelech and Rebbe Shneur Zalman. As long as we are discussing the individual’s service of God, the advice is to follow the Tanya of Chassidut Chabad. Yet, the primary service of Chassidut Chabad today is not what you do with yourself, but how you touch the lives of other Jews, as the Rebbe of Lubavitch used to say, “Go out and teach!” (???????????). If you know how to put on tefillin, go out onto the street and give another Jew the privilege of donning tefillin. If you know how to study Torah, go out and establish a Torah class in your neighborhood. Moreover, you should act to change the current communal state of the Jewish People, as the Rebbe cried out, “Overturn the world today!”

As long as our principle stance is with our faces turned outwards, to bring about the Ba’al Shem Tov’s messianic goal of “Your wellsprings will disseminate outwards,” then everyone is empowered to affect others, and we are all serving as a “stand-in” for the tzadik. The tzadik’s power of influence, as Rebbe Elimelech teaches us, is both in the spiritual and material realms. If you help someone who has got into a sticky financial patch, or give advice to someone in distress, then you are currently wearing the hat of a tzadik (which is why it is recommended to own the book Noam Elimelech and to study it). So, don’t forget who you are, don’t deceive yourself, and however much you influence others, you should still be connected to someone who you identify as a true tzadik acting on his behalf and as his emissary.

Between Two Tzadikim

One might think that all tzadikim are exactly the same, however, this is a common mistake made by those who see things from afar, somewhat like all those who think that the “religious Jew” with his yarmulke and beard are all a genetic clone of the same man… However, although there are some things that are the same, every tzadik has his own character and his own way of serving God.

For instance, the two aspects of a tzadik are mentioned in Kabbalah as the “higher tzadik” and the “lower tzadik.” The “higher tzadik” is like the figure of Joseph, who hovers slightly above reality, looking at everything from above and controlling what goes on. On the other hand, the “lower tzadik” is more involved with reality, and suffers from the darkness and distress he sees around him, yet nonetheless remains righteous. The archetypal soul of this lower level is Benjamin (who, like Joseph, is also referred to as “the Righteous Benjamin”), who suffered from his older brother Joseph’s prolonged disappearance.

Even Rebbe Elimelech, who speaks so profusely about the tzadik, constantly distinguishes between different types of tzadikim, and in many cases he compares two different types, as in the following passage[2]:

The world is always in need of two types of tzadikim: One who always thinks in the higher worlds and unifications, and constantly adds light higher and higher. The other is one who always thinks of the needs of this world who need to make a living, and blessing and life and everything else they need. Through these two tzadikim the world exists.

Since we have already mentioned two types of tzadikim, we should mention another wondrous and beloved Chassidic figure together with Rebbe Elimelech and Rebbe Shneur Zalman: Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (who is also referred to as “the advocate of the Jewish People”). Rebbe Levi Yitzchak too is from the same study hall where these other two tzadikim studied. Rebbe Levi Yitzchak’s book is called, “Kedushat Levi” (lit: “Levi’s Sanctity”) which is also an important addition to any Chassidic bookshelf.

So now we have completed the list of basic Chassidic books that should be found in every Jewish home: Noam Elimelech, Tanya and Kedushat Levi. One indication of this selected threesome is in the phrase from our prayers, “with clear lips and with a holy tune” (stated with reference to the song and praise of the angels). “Clear lips” (?????? ????????) relates to the Tanya, which clearly explains to us all what we should be doing[3]; “tune” (????????) relates to the Noam Elimelech (????? ???????????); and “holy” (?????????) relates to the Kedushat Levi (????????? ?????). The latter two words are in close proximity, while the first which relates to the Tanya, stands somewhat on its own. The Kedushat Levi and the Noam Elimelech represent the two aspects of the tzadik who serve as inspiration and guides for us, while the Tanya is the work book of the intermediate which stands in between the two tzadikim.

Now, to conclude, let’s do a little sum: if we add these three figures, intermediate-tzadiktzadik (?????????? ?????? ??????) we find that they equal 536. However, this number is exactly equal to the average value of the sum of the three books TanyaNoam ElimelechKedushat Levi (????????-????? ???????????-????????? ?????)!

All of God’s people are righteous, beginning with the intermediate level, which connect to all the types of tzadikim. It is the intermediates who will themselves become the tzadikim and bring goodness to the world.

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class to the Torat Hanefesh School of Jewish Psychology on 26th Shevat 5774

[1] Ch. 2.

[2] Noam Elimelech Parashat Vayechi, on the phrase, “And Joseph took.”

[3] When Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch was born, his grandfather, Rebbe Shmuel of Lubavitch, blessed him that he should give Chassidic discourses with “clear lips.”

One Response to “The Righteous Academy (Now Accepting Admissions)”

  1. benjamin says:

    Wish to express my deep gratitude for the continued excellent content in the ‘Wonders….’