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Abraham, Rebbe Zusha, the Lights of Chaos

Rabbi Meshulam Zusil of Anapoli, better known as Rebbe Zusha, was a senior student of the Maggid of Mezritch. Brother of the renowned Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhansk, Rebbe Zusha is known to have been a Torah scholar and a genius in earnestness and sincerity. Many of the stories about him highlight his earnest nature. He passed away on 2 Shevat, 5560 (1800) and was brought to rest in the gravesite of the Rav the Maggid of Anapoli.

Once, Rebbe Zusha wanted to nullify a harsh decree against the Jews. He requested that the Seven Shepherds (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David) descend from Heaven to assist him. The Seven Shepherds indeed descended from Above. Rebbe Zusha, assuming the role of the Chief of the Rabbinical Court that he had convened, opened with his request to nullify the decree. “We descended to the world below,” the Shepherds told him, “not in the merit of the unifications and special intentions that you performed. It is specifically in the merit of the simple, sincere service with which you serve God that we descended. You serve God with self-sacrifice and hard work. God is glorified by your service and proudly says, ‘See the creation that I have created.’

“You can nullify the decree on your own,” they continued. “We descended simply to see the creature of whom God is so proud.”

Rebbe Zusha’s personality originates in the World of Chaos—the spiritual reality that existed before our rectified reality was created. His service of God is sincere, uncomplicated, bereft of unique intentions, and filled with fiery enthusiasm. However, without strong, rectified vessels to harbor the tremendously powerful lights of chaos, the chaotic energies will disperse throughout the world with no direction or purpose. For example, a person who sets his emotions free, quickly discovers that he has become enslaved to every momentary urge that awakens within him. What then can be done?

The Chanukah candles guide us in this case, showing us how to correctly kindle the flame of the soul. The sages say that the Chanukah candles can be lit, “until the last foot has left the marketplace,”[1] meaning that the last of the merchants have gone home. Chassidut explains that the “foot” alluded to in this statement is not only the foot of the merchants but also the foot appearing in the verse, “Let not the foot of the arrogant tread on me”[2] (אַל תְּבוֹאֵנִי רֶגֶל גַּאֲוָה)—the foot of arrogance or pride. The powerful energies originating in the World of Chaos are risky because of their arrogant nature. This arrogance needs to be removed from the marketplace, where the Hebrew word for “marketplace” (הַשּׁוּק) suggests “passion” (הִשְׁתּוֹקְקוּת). In other words, to be rectified the sense of pride and arrogance must be removed from the passion that the energies of the World of Chaos can awaken. This is achieved by adopting a sense of deep submission before God, which then harnesses the energy of the World of Chaos for true, deep, and lasting change in the world.

The first person to engage in the service of rectified chaos was Abraham, who is known as, “the giant among men.”[3] Abraham stood alone against the entire world. When speaking to God, he said, “I am but dust and ashes.”[4] But when he wanted to save the people of Sodom, he knew how to assertively argue with God.

Sefer Karnayim (an ancient Kabbalistic book that was revealed by Rabbi Shimshon of Ostropoli) writes of a clear connection between Abraham and the holiday of Chanukah: Abraham’s date of birth and his day of passing is the 1st of Tevet, which is (usually) the 6th day of Chanukah. Sefer Karnayim goes on to state that five days of preparation preceded Abraham’s birth, similar to the five days that preceded the creation of Adam. Hence, the first day of creation of Abraham’s world was the 25th of Kislev, the first day of Chanukah!

Like Abraham, every Jew has his own world created for him. His mission is to rectify that world and to spread the light of Godliness within it. We must shine this light fearlessly and with complete devotion, like the messianic formula of the Lubavitcher Rebbe—lights of chaos in rectified vessels—and Rebbe Zusha’s sincere way of serving God.

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[1]. Shabbat 21b.

[2]. Psalms 36:12.

[3]. Joshua 14:15.

[4] Genesis 18:27.

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