August 7, 2014
Beis Moshiach in #937, Thought

We are all familiar withavodas habirurimbut what isavodas hanisyonos?” What is the difference between them? What remains to be done for us to finish the work and the galus and bring Moshiach?


Chassidus explains that one of the main jobs a Jew has in the world is “avodas ha’birurim.” What does this mean? On Shabbos there is a prohibition called borer which means you are not allowed to remove undesirable matter from food. The act of borer is one of selection and separation of good and bad. 

The avoda of birurim is to separate the good and bad in the world. The world conceals the truth and the G-dly sparks which give it life. Within every physical entity there is a spark of G-dliness, of holiness, which gives it life. Our job is to reveal that spark, to separate the good and the bad within material things.

The good within each thing is the purpose for which it was created; it can increase the glory of the Creator and we are able to use this thing for a lofty purpose. When we use it according to Hashem’s will, we are extracting and revealing the G-dly spark within.

For example, when we take a cup of water and drink it so we have the strength to learn Torah, or to daven and serve Hashem, we say a bracha, “everything was created through His word,” and reveal how everything truly is created through His word. By doing so, we are revealing the G-dly potential within the water.

So too with situations in life or our relationships with those around us, when we act with holiness according to Hashem’s will, we are refining that thing, revealing the purpose for which it was created, thus separating between the good and bad within it.

Today, the world is already fully refined! The Rebbe announced that the avodas ha’birurim is over. But we have another avoda, the avoda of nisyonos. The purpose of avodas ha’nisyonos is also to reveal the spark within every created thing, in every situation we encounter, but there is a big difference.


In everything there is both the essence of that thing and the way it appears. A person has the etzem ha’neshama – the neshama itself, and the light of the neshama, i.e. its various kochos like intellect and emotion. Within the G-dly spark hidden in the physical world there are also these two things, the thing itself and its light, i.e. how it expresses itself.

In avodas ha’birurim, we deal with the outer expression of the spark (the light and energy it gives forth). Since we are extracting the outer expression (the light) of the spark, the avoda is also done with the external powers (the light) of the neshama; we use the intellect and emotions in order to properly relate to that thing or that situation, examining what is good and what is bad in it, using the good and drawing it forth.

But in avodas ha’nisyonos the spark does not give off any G-dly light. There is only the essence of the spark, and therefore, there is nothing to work with. There is nothing for us to extract. The spark itself is so hidden that we have no way of revealing it. Another sort of avoda is required here.

Avodas ha’birurim is meant to extract the light of the spark, and therefore, we can make do with avoda with the light of the neshama (the intellect and emotions). But avodas ha’nisyonos is with the essence of the G-dly spark and therefore, the avoda has to be with the essence of the soul (the yechida).

This is not avoda toward the outside; it is avoda toward the inside!


When we face a nisayon, since it contains only the essence of the spark without any outer expression of light, from our perspective it has no substance and therefore, we have no way of working with it or relating to it. In this case, the avoda is with ourselves. When we work with ourselves, we remove all the external coverings and all of our core desires and pleasures, we transcend the powers of intellect and emotion and reveal our etzem ha’neshama. Then the etzem of that spark is revealed too, the G-dly spark within that situation defined as a nisayon is extracted.

The moment we reveal this within ourselves and the G-dly spark is revealed, we will immediately see how the entire situation was only a test, because “Hashem tests you to know,” a test that Hashem arranges for us in order to ascertain whether we will withstand it or not; He checks to see to what extent we believe in Him.

That is the secret to withstanding tests, knowing that this reality is not true at all. Hashem created the situation especially for us only in order to test us.

The word ‘test’ in Hebrew is also from the root meaning to raise up. By withstanding a test, a person is elevated, revealing deep, inner strengths, revealing his etzem ha’neshama.

A person facing a test needs to strengthen his awareness that he is unwilling to separate from G-d, and that he is willing to give up everything for Him. By revealing his essence, he is revealing the essential spark that is the source of the test, thus revealing the truth that the entire test was illusory.

When Avrohom Avinu was on his way to the Akeida he had to cross a river. The river was his test, to see whether he would be determined to continue to the Akeida. He withstood the test and the river vanished.

The Jewish people left Egypt and seven days later they arrived at the sea. The Egyptians were behind them, the mountains and desert on either side of them and the sea in front of them. Hashem had promised they would go to Har Sinai and receive the Torah and it looked as though that would never happen. Nachshon ben Aminadav withstood the test and jumped into the sea and the sea split and the Jewish people went through.

We too received a promise. The Rebbe said Moshiach is in the doorway, we heard a prophecy from the Rebbe that our generation is the generation of Geula and hinei zeh Moshiach ba. The reality looks different. The moment we realize this is a test to see whether we are impressed by the world or not, everything will look different and it will be easier to handle.

Our job today is mainly avoda with ourselves, to achieve total bittul through which we reveal the inner strength we have, the yechida of the nefesh, the etzem of the neshama. 

Rabbi Nadav Cohen serves as Director of Educational Programs at the Ascent Institute of Tzfat and is the author of the critically acclaimed “GPS for the Soul,” available at amazon.com.  


Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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