In Rebbe Nachman’s story of The Cripple, he describes how the story’s protagonist finds a square-shaped diamond.
The Cripple finds the diamond when he’s been reduced to plucking up grass to eat, after he’s been robbed by bandits and left totally alone in the forest.
Rebbe Nachman tells us some wondrous properties of this square diamond:
“Each side had a different segula (magical property). On one side, it was written that whoever would grasp that side, he’d be taken straight to the place where day and night come together, that the sun and the moon come together, there. When The Cripple uprooted the grass and the diamond, it turned out that he was grasping this side, and he was lifted up and carried, and brought to the place where day and night convene.”
As we’ve explained before, Rebbe Nachman uses the language of metaphor to reveal some very deep spiritual secrets.
The diamond hints to a very lofty spiritual perception that the Tzaddikim merit to grasp, and ‘The Cripple’ hints to the baal teshuva, the newly-observant Jew, who is wounded in the legs.
The deeper meaning of this is that the baal teshuva’s inner ‘world of feelings’ has fallen down, into the lusts of this world, and into the realm of bad middot (character traits), and now, he’s setting out to search for the true path, i.e. the path of Torah and emuna.
The Cripple has already experienced a number of hardships and confusions by this point.
He’s fallen into a state where God is hidden, and he’s experiencing enormous spiritual darkness. But, once he finds the diamond, he starts out on a completely different path, and he enters the world of tikkun, or rectification.
The rule is this: When a person truly wants the truth, and is searching for it, and is even willing to fight for it, then even if he goes through hardships, as long as he doesn’t fall into despair, and he deals with the situation appropriately, eventually, it’s certain that all the gates of holiness will be opened for him.
What does it mean, to ‘act appropriately’? It means that when he has energy and strength, he does as much as is humanly possible. But, when it’s ‘not possible’, that he doesn’t then fall into despair, and just waits patiently, and requests and prays that that gates of holiness should be opened for him.
‘Finding the diamond’, in the story of The Cripple, is when the gate is finally opened. That’s when a person finally starts to receive true daat (internalized spiritual knowledge), and to acquire a true perception of how he really needs to rectify himself. He’ll also start to figure out how he can really help to rectify the world around him, and how to help other people reach their tikkunim, or spiritual rectification.
And his first piece of insight is this ‘conversation’ between the sun and the moon.
The complaints of the sun and the moon
Let’s return to the story, to see how Rebbe Nachman describes this:
“The Sun complained to the Moon: ‘There is a tree which has many boughs, and which has many fruit and leaves growing on it, and each bough and branch, and fruit and leaf, has a different segula. One is a segulah for having children, another is a segulah for making parnassa, another is a segulah for healing the sick, [etc].
“And this tree needs to be watered. If it was watered, it would have all these capabilities. It’s not enough that I’m not watering it, [said the Sun], but because I’m shining down on it, I’m actually drying it out!”
The holy books describe how ‘The Sun’ and the ‘The Moon’ hint at two spiritual characteristics, that Hashem uses to run the world. In the language of the kabbalists, the Sun is the characteristic of tiferet, and the Moon is the characteristic of malchut. And there is a whole program of spiritual work, observation and actions that are required from each one of us, in order to rectify each of these characteristics.
In the story, Rebbe Nachman uses metaphor to teach us how these characteristics, represented by the Sun and Moon, are blemished, and what we can actually do to fix them.
The Sun says: There’s a tree that brings bounty to the whole world, and when I shine on it, that should help it to grow and develop more greenery. But, because it’s not being watered, I’m actually just drying it out and damaging it, instead.
In the language of the kabbalists, this tree is called the Etz HaChaim, the Tree of Life, which is again the language of metaphor. What this actually means is that there are ways, or ‘pipes’ by way of which bounty descends to our world from the spiritual worlds, and that this tree possesses everything we could possibly need. Our work is to repair the pipes of abundance, and if we do this, we’ll have every good thing and will lack for nothing.
The level of wisdom
The Sun is really saying: I could really do a great deal to help this spiritual abundance to come down to the world in a very good way, but before that can happen, Am Yisrael has to rectify itself.
Again, the holy books describe how tiferet is connected with a person’s wisdom and intellect. By nature, a Jew loves to learn Torah, and he loves wisdom, and he wants to understand more and more. This is a good character trait, to be engaged in learning – but it’s also complicated. Why? Because a person’s wisdom can certainly cause him to grow spiritually, and improve his health, and also cause him to be very well respected, both in the secular world and the spiritual world.
The pursuit of wisdom can also help a person to find his true path to serving Hashem, and to clarifying what’s really true – but only when this wisdom is coming from the right place.
Simply learning by itself, is not going to achieve this.
Rebbe Nachman teaches that mayim – water – is also required for this to happen, and that’s why the tree needs to be watered. Again, this is a hint to what needs to be occurring with the souls of the Jewish people.
The Sun – the trait of wisdom – says: It’s not enough that I’m not causing the tree to flourish, I’m even damaging it!
‘Mayim’ – water – is a metaphor for prayer and emuna, faith, as it’s written: “pour out your soul before Hashem.”
Rebbe Nachman’s Sun is telling us, on the one hand, the Jewish nation is extremely attached to learning wisdom – but they have a big yetzer hara, or evil inclination, which is causing them to solely concentrate on learning wisdom, and to neglect prayer and emuna. And so, this is causing a situation that instead of all the Torah learning bringing bounty and goodness down to the world, all these ‘wise’ people are actually drying the tree out, and destroying the bounty that is descending.
And this is happening, because the tree isn’t being irrigated with water – prayer and emuna.
The test of every wise person
We have to try to understand the enormous depth of Rebbe Nachman’s words, to figure out exactly how the pursuit of wisdom can actually harm a person. The holy books describe how there are a few different types of ‘abilities’ that can cause a person to become full of pride and arrogance.
The first one refers to someone who is a baal gevurot. This phrase refers to someone who is a doer, and who always seems to land on his feet, and even manages to help other people solve their problems, no matter what situation he finds himself in. A person like this runs a real risk of becoming arrogant.
The second ability refers to wealth. We can see with our own eyes how most of the people who merit to become wealthy, also unfortunately become very proud, and so this is a very hard test. And the third ‘ability’ is wisdom. When someone is wise, but he doesn’t know how to fight against his own feelings of superiority and pride – he will become more arrogant than either the ‘doer’, or the rich man.
This is because wisdom is innate. When someone is wise, other people want to listen to them, and they want to consult with them, and to ‘pick their brains’. If this person isn’t extremely careful, all his wisdom will simply contribute to his feelings of pride growing to monstrous proportions.
Rebbe Nachman teaches us that spiritually, there is no greater ‘fall’ than falling into arrogance.
While it’s possible to raise a person up out of all of his negative character traits, the hardest one to contend with is pride. And this is what the Sun in Rebbe Nachman’s story is teaching us:
Instead of causing him to flourish, all this person’s wisdom is actually just drying him out, because there is no water – i.e., he’s not fighting against his feelings of pride, and his arrogance is shutting off every pipe of abundance the person possesses.
Again, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t aspire to wisdom – wisdom is a very good trait. But only when a person is also doing the work of praying as he should, and spending time conversing with Hashem in hitbodedut, and undertaking a regular cheshbon hanefesh (accounting for his thoughts, words and deeds, and how he’s spending his time.)
For example, this person will spend 10 minutes, a quarter of an hour, every single day doing a cheshbon hanefesh. That means he’s double-checking where he’s really holding with his middot, with his character traits. Where is he holding with his anger? How much is he really guarding his eyes, so he doesn’t see things that he shouldn’t be looking at? How is he managing with all the constrictions that Hashem is sending down to him? What does he spend his time thinking about? Etc etc.
When a person does this regularly, he quickly starts to find that he’s not as big a tzaddik as he thought, and that he still has an awful lot of work to do.
There’s one final point to make, and that is that a person has to remember that his wisdom is a present from Hashem. If that’s the case, why be ‘proud’ about this present, that you got from Hashem for free? When a person really starts to look at his feelings of arrogance, and starts trying to overcome them, that’s when his wisdom can truly start to bring him to a place of experiencing true good and bounty – and every spiritual gate will start to open for him.