Rebbe Nachman’s Agenda

Prayer protects a person so that his Torah learning won't lead to arrogance or sophistication. Therefore, before learning Torah, one must pray profusely...

3 min

Rabbi Shalom Arush

Posted on 21.07.15

Rebbe Nachman says that our daily agenda should be prayer, Torah, and prayer. Let's see what he means.


There is a basic difference between the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, indicated in their names. The Tree of Life is life itself, inherently good. Yet, in the Tree of Knowledge, there is a mixture of good and bad. Our sages tell us that the Tree of Life corresponds to prayer, for prayer not only vitalizes a person, but gives life to all the upper worlds (see Likutei Moharan I:9).


Prayer is the product of humility. One who prays is making a statement that he cannot succeed on his own. We all need Hashem's help in every aspect of life – health, income, marital bliss, Torah, raising children and more. We can't even cross the street safely or hammer a nail into the wall without bashing a finger unless we have Hashem's help. Therefore, we must believe that Hashem is the source of all power, we are nil without Him, and we consequently must turn to Him for all of our needs, big and small, material and spiritual. Prayer is the Tree of Life, for it binds us to the Source of all life – Hashem.


On the other hand, the holy Torah corresponds to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, and not because the Torah contains good and evil, Heaven forbid, but because the Torah presents the concept of free choice to a person. As such, if a person's intentions in learning Torah are other than seeking the truth, then the Torah will be harmful to him; for example, a thief who learns Torah will simply become a more cunning and sophisticated thief. Our sages therefore said of the Torah that, "If one so merits, the Torah is for him the elixir of life; if he doesn't merit, the Torah becomes for him the potion of death" (tractate Taanit, 7a). The same Torah can bring one person to a higher level of righteousness while bringing another person to greater conceit. As such, the holy Torah corresponds to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, all depending on the inner aspirations of each individual and according to his or her choice.


The Torah describes that the Tree of Life is in center of the garden, for the garden is a metaphor of Jewish souls. Rebbe Nachman explains (Likutei Moharan II:8) that the souls of the Jewish People are like herbs growing in a garden and that the Tree of Life is in our midst. This means that the Torah is inherent in the inner dimension of the Jewish soul. Prayer is also part of our inner makeup, since it holds such a vital and central part in our lives and in our body-mind-and-soul health.


Prayer rescues a person from the potential negative influence of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. Prayer protects a person so that his Torah learning won't lead to arrogance or sophistication. Therefore, before learning Torah, one must pray profusely that he derives the right things from Torah – enhanced awe and love of Hashem, fear of sin, love of fellow human, modesty and emuna. After learning Torah, he must pray that he'll be able to apply all that he has learned in the service of Hashem, and thank Hashem for the privilege of learning the holy Torah.


Prayer is inherent in our spiritual midst, but we must bring it out to the open. Therefore, it's best to vocalize our prayers, saying word for word slowly and with intent, whether we're saying prescribed prayers or personal prayers. This enables us to attain the positive influences of the Tree of Knowledge, to the extent where the Torah becomes an elixir of life, for the Torah is truly a Tree of Life for those who cling to it in truth. Therefore, our Torah learning must be double-wrapped in prayer, before learning and after learning. The Gemara tells about the holy Tannaic sage Rebbe Nechunia ben Hakanna (author of the prayer, "Ana B'koach"); he would pray briefly when he entered the house of study before learning, and when he left the house of study, after learning (see tractate Berachot, 28b). Before learning, he'd pray to learn for the right reasons. After learning, he'd thank Hashem for his good fortune in the privilege of having learned Torah. We should do the same so that we all may merit blessings in our Torah learning.

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Rebbe Nachman honored the women of his family. Due to his mother's great spiritual merits, the Rebbe asked that we refer to him as “Nachman Ben Feige.” Her date of passing: 19-Adar.

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