|From the book Noam Siach, Part II, excerpts from lessons
given by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender, zt"l.
Nachman’s main intention was to give people advice
through which they would be able to come closer to Hashem.
The Rebbe didn’t want people to talk about the miracles that he performed.
He even said: “When I do a wonder, I beg Hashem that people will forget
about it.” Because that wasn’t Rebbe Nachman’s point—his main point was
to bring Jews closer to Hashem, through following his holy guidance. There
are a lot of stories that one could tell. Rav Avraham b’Rav Nachman says
that he could have written a “whole book” about the wonders that Rebbe
Nachman did, but this was not what the Rebbe wanted. He wanted people to
concentrate on the guidance that he revealed, concepts that rectify the
soul in this world and the next, and even after the resurrection. To follow
his advice—this was what he wanted from us.
The Rebbe used
to speak very much about the love one must have for all Jews in general,
and especially for one’s fellow Chassidim. The Rebbe himself had such a
love for his followers. He even sacrificed the wife of his youth for them!
He sacrificed his precious children, his sons, for them, and Rebbe Nachman,
himself, died young because of this: so that his teachings, his life’s
work, would survive. The Rebbe’s greatest success was in that he completed
all that he set out to achieve. His advice was faithfully carried out,
even during his lifetime, by his followers. They made one hour of hisbodedus
every day. They would get up at
Chatzos every night [in order to
say the Tikkun Chatzos, the lament over the destruction of the Temple,
which is to be said at midnight] and then pray the Morning Prayer at sunrise.
Even by us, we
have people whom, thank G–d, are following our Rebbe’s advice: getting
up for Chatzos and doing a little hisbodedus. They make sure
to recite Shema at the right time. Thank G–d that this is going on, and
it’s all due to Rebbe Nachman. He taught that one must strive to be constantly
renewing himself, praying to G–d every day that He should help him follow
this holy guidance. One must beg Hashem every day, and should even go to
sleep at night while doing
hisbodedus. This is how one should fall
asleep. One must also beg Hashem that he should be able to get up every
night at Chatzos.
“That they should
be ever-new in your eyes.” This statement of the Sages applies to all of
Rebbe Nachman’s advice! It has to be like new in your eyes every
day! Totally new! Every day you should ask Hashem to help you get up for
do hisbodedus. All this has to be new in your eyes every single
day. You must try your best not to pray the Shema and morning prayers late.
Of course, to pray at sunrise would be the best, but if not, then at least
as early as possible.
When a person
isn’t well, then he can rely on the leniencies in the Code of Jewish Law.
Rebbe Nachman himself said once, “When you’re healthy, you have to do,
and do, and do some more, but when you aren’t, then certain leniencies
are permitted. This refers to serving Hashem in ways that are really taxing,
like Chatzos, for example. When a person isn’t well, G–d forbid,
say he suffers from migraines, regarding this Rebbe Nachman’s said,
“One must guard his mind.” Similarly he told Reb Ber, “Your Chatzos
will be at three in the morning.” When a person is well, however,
he’s got to do, and do, and do some more.
Reb Nosson said,
“I heard from our Rebbe that the foundation of action and good deeds is
giving charity.” This is what Rebbe Nachman’s path is all about:
Torah study, prayer, and giving charity. To get up early at a time that
is auspicious for prayer, and especially to be so very careful with your
time not to waste it, this is what Rebbe Nachman himself is all about.
Rebbe Nachman’s power is so great that he really can help with all these
matters. It isn’t just that he spoke about these ideas, and that they are
written in his holy book. He taught about the importance of waking up at
midnight to say Tikkun Chatzos, and there are Jews who are actually
doing what he said to do. For those who can’t get up, then at least they
can pray to Hashem to help them get up, and perhaps they will manage to
get up a few times a week. At least we know that there is such a
thing. One must speak out loud to Hashem, and long for it and really struggle
to get there.
encouraging people to serve Hashem and the love that he felt for the whole
world was what gave Rebbe Nachman life. Our Rebbe loved other Jews so much
that he always judged everyone favorably. There have never been such words
of encouragement: “Gevaldt! Don’t despair! Never give up!” He said
one time, “I have people by me…the deepest pit in hell wouldn’t be sufficient
for them, they would dig down deeper if they could.”
Our Rebbe never
pushed anyone away. By him, there was no such thing as a hopeless
case. There were “bible critics”—so called “enlightened Jews,” living in
Uman, that no one in the religious community could even look at! The Berditchever
Rav once spent a Shabbos in Uman. Those “critics” came to him and he wouldn’t
even look at their faces. He applied to them the advice of the Sages, “It
is forbidden to gaze at the face of a wicked person!” The Shepetevker Rav
also spent a Shabbos in Uman once, and the same thing happened.
the holy Baal Shem Tov also spent a Shabbos in Uman. He spoke with Rav
David Chazan and said to him, “Many Jews will be saved by your gartel.”
This Rav David was a great, and very hidden, Tzaddik. He had a cave
in Uman where he often went to do hisbodedus for days at a time.
Apparently, this is what the Baal Shem Tov was referring to when he said,
“Many Jews will be saved by your gartel, (belt).” This cave
was very deep and ran from the small bridge near the old cemetery on which
they used to carry the dead (which was called the “dead bridge”) until
the great woods. It was during the bloody pogroms led by the murderer Gunta
and the Haidemacks, may their names be erased, on the sixth of Tammuz 5528
(1768) that Rav David hid together with many other Jews in that cave, and
no one knew that they were there. The massacre went on for a couple of
days, from the sixth until the eighth of Tammuz, and all the Jews in Uman—men,
women, and children—were murdered. Rav David and the others heard the horrible
screaming, and when the noise stopped, they left the cave. There was a
river of blood before their eyes, with severed limbs lying everywhere on
the ground. They acted quickly and dug two mass graves where they buried
all the martyrs, and because there were so many corpses, the two pits became
like two small hills. Rebbe Nachman chose the spot between the two mounds
for his grave. This Rav David was the one who wrote the famous scroll,
“The Scroll of Uman” which begins with, “And David lamented...” It
was customary to read this scroll in the great synagogue of Uman every
year on one of the days in Tammuz when the massacre occurred. They also
read this scroll several times in our Kloiz in Uman.)
The point is
that everyone had been there. So what? They, the “critics,” ran the town
of Uman. They had some influence with the Czar, so much so that one of
them, Hirsch Ber, even received a gift from the Czar of a golden sword.
They were very well educated and the Czar thought a great deal of them.
The Czar felt enriched by having such people in his land, such wise people,
so, naturally, their opinions counted for something. When some Rebbe came
to the town, if they didn’t approve, this Rebbe would not have been able
to continue living there.
Rebbe Nachman didn’t
flatter them, either. When our Rebbe traveled from Zlatipola to Breslov,
the road passed through Uman. (We are familiar with this road. It used
to pass through Uman, Kiblitch, Teplik, Ladizhen…until it reached Breslov.)
It was then that Rebbe Nachman stopped in Uman.
The Rebbe saw
a hidden Tzaddik there, he was the kosher slaughterer in Uman. As
soon as Rebbe Nachman entered the town, this hidden Tzaddik could
sense who he was. He ran to the Rebbe straight away. All this happened
in Elul, before Rosh Hashanah, because we know that Rebbe Nachman entered
Zlatipola in Elul and also left in Elul of the following year. The Rebbe
said to this shochet, “My whole purpose, my essence, is Rosh Hashanah!”
The shochet then asked Rebbe Nachman for permission to travel to
Breslov by using a holy Name since he was a kosher slaughterer and there
were several days of work to be done right before Rosh Hashanah.
The one hundred kilometer trip from Uman to Breslov would take ten to twelve
hours to travel, and he wanted that the Rebbe should grant him permission
to finish the slaughtering for those who needed it. (By using a Name,
he would have a miraculously short journey and reach Breslov in only a
few minutes.) Rebbe Nachman answered, “No! People have to travel to me
by horse, not by Names.”
In any case,
the Rebbe was in Uman for Shabbos and stayed at the home of Rav Avraham
Chayim who had an inn. Afterward, Reb Avraham Chayim became a follower
of Rebbe Nachman, together with his son, Reb Moshe.
On the very Shabbos
that Rebbe Nachman spent in Uman, a prominent general was staying in the
house across the way from Reb Avraham Chayim’s. Those “critics” heard that
some Rebbe had come to Uman, so they wanted to see him. Without their permission,
he would never be able to stay anyway. The “critics” were a father and
two sons-in-law. The father’s name was Chaikel and the two sons-in-law
were Hirsch Ber and Landau, a doctor. The two sons said to their father-in-law,
“We’re going to rest a bit. You go and see if there is anyone there worth
talking to. If so, we will go and visit him later.”
in to see Rebbe Nachman. The Rebbe asked him what he wanted. Chaikel answered,
“I heard that a great man has arrived. I’ve come to see him.” The Rebbe
said to him, “There, across the way, is another great man.” He pointed
to the general’s lodgings. “Why don’t you go and see him as well?”
It was as though Rebbe Nachman had given him a slap in the face. That was
the end of the conversation.
So Chaikel returned,
and they asked him what had happened. He answered, “Well he didn’t exactly
treat me with respect, but I can see that there is someone there to talk
to.” So, they themselves went to see the Rebbe. When they went in to see
him, he was in the middle of a giving a talk to his followers. Immediately
as the two entered, he interrupted what he was saying and started to discuss
a complex mathematical problem. They realized that he was talking to them,
so they asked him how to solve the problem. The Rebbe solved the problem
for them and they were astounded. They could see, “This really is someone…a
totally different type of person.”
Right after this, Rebbe
Nachman traveled on to Breslov, but they already had a great longing for
him. Several letters went back and forth between them. Later, when Rebbe
Nachman moved to Uman permanently, they were already on the way to becoming
his followers. They were very distant from Yiddishkeit. Hirsch Ber
was one of the greatest Maskilim of the time, truly a manifestation
of “the serpent’s forehead” (skeptical heresy, see Likutei Moharan,
Tinyana 4). He once said, “I swore long ago to never so much as mention
G–d’s Name, but whenever I go in to see Rebbe Nachman, I feel as if he
is tugging at the corner of my coat saying, ‘Hirsch Ber! There is a G–d
in the world! There is a G–d in the world!’” The end of the story is that
Hirsch Ber traveled to London, where he died and was buried. His grandsons
wrote to Reb Nachman of Tulchin and asked him to explain to them what a
“Rebbe” is. As their grandfather was dying, and his soul departing,
he was heard uttering the words, “The Rebbe! The Rebbe! The Rebbe!…Only
the Rebbe, the Rebbe!” Thus, they wanted Reb Nachman to write back
and explain what a “Rebbe” is. From this we can see that he truly did repent.
We see from here
that Rebbe Nachman’s whole point, even though he was a great and awesome
holy sage, was to set everything aside and conduct himself with total straightforwardness
and simplicity in order to bring Jews back to Hashem: to bring them back
to the old, time-tested, path. The truth is that his path to Hashem was
really the original one; it is the path that all the ancient Tzaddikim
walked. People wanted to make slight alterations, but the Rebbe would not
allow even that. “This path is the old path, and it also has to be the
new path. And it will endure.” Rebbe Nachman said further, “There won’t
be any difference between the guidance I give and that which Moshiach will
give. It’s just that they will listen to Moshiach, whereas, to me they
do not.” Moshiach will give the same guidance, he will say that a
Jew has to wake up for Chatzos and that a Jew must pray at the proper
time. This is Rebbe Nachman’s whole enterprise, to put new life into
this path, so that it should not go lost.
This is what
is written in the holy Zohar: “Since the Temple was destroyed, Hashem has
nothing to comfort Him. He cannot be comforted, except through the efforts
of those Jews who get up for Chatzos and mourn the destruction of
the Temple. That is His comfort!” That is how Hashem comforts Himself,
with those Jews that do this. Without them, there is no comfort at all.
See how there have been so many Tzaddikim, with all their service
of G–d. Even so, He has no comfort unless he sees a Jew feeling the loss
of the Temple, feeling that he is lacking something in his life, without
A person can
be so learned and still not feel that he is missing the Temple! He
is prepared to dedicate so much time to his learning, but to beg Hashem
to rebuild the Temple, this he doesn’t have time for!
In Uman there
lived Nochum Shuster who was originally from Lomza, a small town full of
great Torah scholars including Rav Mordechai, the Rav of Sokolov, and also
Rav Shlomo Gavriel. Many young scholars would go to Lomza to learn. Reb
Nochum Shuster was an ignoramus; he didn’t even know how to pray. He was
literally a total ignoramus. He used to go to the Beis Medresh at midnight
and cry in the corner, while saying “Tikkun Chatzos.” People
used to laugh at him: he couldn’t even read, and he was saying “Tikkun
Chatzos!” They would make fun of him, “Nochum, what are you saying?”
He would answer, “I’ll tell you. You are all great scholars, and you have
your learning, so you don’t feel anything lacking in your lives, that we
don’t have our Temple, but me, I’m a simple person. I don’t know
how to learn, so I truly miss the Temple! This is why I’m begging
Hashem to rebuild it as soon as possible.” So said this simple Jew! This
young man answered them very well. They understood what he was saying,
and those famous scholars, the Rav of Sokolov and other great scholars
like him, became Breslover Chassidim because of Nochum Shuster.
A person can
sometimes say something that is so true that it penetrates to the depths
of his friend’s heart. This Nochum would say, “They don’t even realize
that the Temple is gone! What’s missing? He’s such a scholar; he learns.
So, that’s it, he already has his Temple.”
When it comes
to Rebbe Nachman’s teachings, even the smallest flame can ignite a massive
tree trunk. Such a small flame as Nochum Shuster brought such great people
closer to Rebbe Nachman. Why? It wasn’t because Nochum Shuster had some
special ability; it was only because Rebbe Nachman’s power was within him.
He was a very naive, simple, person: a very good, simple, Jew, and Rebbe
Nachman spoke through him. That’s how it is with our Rebbe. As it says
in the second chapter of Iyov, “The small and the great are there.”
Who is really great, and who is really small? We’ll only know there,
(in the next world)! Here, someone can be a scholar, a genius, and
over there, some little Jew is sitting in the corner crying before Hashem.
Who is the great one and who is the small one? Only there will we find
There is such
truth to be found with Rebbe Nachman, such simple purity to be found by
our Rebbe, without any conceit at all. Just, “Be a simple person, get up
at night, be careful to pray at the earliest time. Stand in a corner and
pour your heart out to Hashem.” If you do so, then “Happy are you,
and good is your lot.” You will be living the life of the next world in
This is what
Rebbe Nachman wanted during his lifetime, and that is what he wants now.
And, thank G–d, our Rebbe is successful! Our Rebbe is very successful in
this! It really ought to be so much more the case, but still, the Rebbe
is succeeding. As he himself says, “The main completion of person is that
after he is gone, something of him should remain. That after he passes,
something remains!” It isn’t completion when the Tzaddik is only
in the upper world. He needs to be above and below—he has to be down here
too! How can he also be here? When there are Jews here, in this world,
who follow his advice—then he is also down here!
It is already
so many years after Rebbe Nachman’s passing, one hundred and seventy-two
years, and even so, there are still people who are getting up at night
to do a little hisbodedus, and are careful to recite Shema at the
right time. This is a sign of Rebbe Nachman’s power. This is what he wanted,
and, thank G–d, this is what he has! Hashem should only help that his teachings
will grow and spread as much as possible, that we, ourselves, should grow
and continue in the most beautiful way, and that more people should join
in and follow this path.
judged everyone favorably; he was a great lover of the Jewish people, of
every single Jew. He wouldn’t let anyone give up hope. “Don’t despair!”
He used to say, “The deepest pit in hell wouldn’t be sufficient for some
of the people who have come close to me.” They do come close, and they
become truly human, and they are taken out.
“When did Reb Moshe Tzaddok’s come close to Breslov?”) Moshe Tzaddok’s
came close to Breslov when the activities of the marauding bands had stopped.
That period lasted three or four years. When Czar Nikolai was assassinated
in 1917, there were many Czars. There were new Czars all the time. Anyway,
after the Great War was over, something different happened. Whenever there
had been a war before, after it was over, every soldier had to return his
weapons to the government. If he didn’t, they would arrest him. But
after W.W.I, there was no real Czar. Everyone just took his weapons and
went home. That was where all the bands came from. They killed Jews,
and the killing lasted for three or four years. It was terrible: they just
killed and killed; so many Jews.
They said about
Moshe Tzaddok’s…I don’t know—we’re talking here about someone whose repentance
was like coming back from the dead. People said that he had joined
up with these bands, that this unfortunate man had become one of them,
may Hashem have mercy. Afterward, once the Communists were in, everything
quietened down. It was better for the Jews after they took over. G–d have
mercy, they had their heresy, but in physical terms, they were more prudent.
The communists executed all the members of these bands. When they found
out that Moshe Tzaddok’s had been one of them, they were out to get him.
It was a real miracle that he escaped and that the Communists didn’t kill
In the meantime,
his father had passed away. His name was Tzaddok, and he was a little Jew,
a wagon driver. So Moshe Tzaddok’s came to our Kloiz to say Kaddish.
No synagogue would even let him in, so he went to the Breslov synagogue
because they don’t throw anyone out of there. He said Kaddish, but
didn’t put on tefillin and started to go on his way. Yankel Zhitomir
approached him and said, “Moshe! You’re saying Kaddish, you might
as well put on tefillin too!” He answered, “Nu. So give me tefillin.”
He put on tefillin, and then immediately went on his way.
Moshe Tzaddok’s later
became such a ba’al teshuva. It was incredible! I remember,
in Uman, when they took away the synagogue and there was no other mikveh.
I said to him, “Moshe, you know what you have done! The repair for the
spiritual damage you did will be… to build a mikveh. Build a mikveh
in your house.” He was a wagon driver and had a big stable full of horses.
“Make a mikveh there, and that will be your tikkun [fixing]!”
He made a mikveh. He had to dig more than fifty steps deep under
that stable until he struck water. We used to go to use that mikveh.
It couldn’t be heated because it was so deep down. What’s more, if smoke
would escape, they would know about it, and someone might tell the authorities.
This was the only mikveh in Uman. (It is well known that observing
the laws of family purity at that time was done at great personal danger.)
The mikveh was so cold, and you had to go down fifty steps to get
there. It was dark, and cold…Gevaldt, that mikveh was real self-sacrifice!
They even told on us. This is what happened: there was a cover above the
and there was straw on the cover, and the horses stood on the straw. The
Communists came to visit Reb Moshe Tzaddok’s and asked, “Why do you have
a mikveh?” He replied, “Do you see one?” They went in, saw only
a stable, and they left. He kept that
mikveh for years. Every immersion
was in his merit. He did the most complete teshuva possible!
Before, he had been one of them, but he repented, and made it possible
for new generations of Jews to come into existence. He became a ba’al
teshuva, and he also had a decent livelihood. During the hungry years,
he gave us food to eat. Rav Avraham Sternhartz used to go in to eat a meal
at Moshe Tzaddok’s home every time he went to Rebbe Nachman’s grave. Moshe
lived near the grave site, down below, and he used to go to him regularly
to eat. All of us used to go to him regularly, and he would feed us well.
He had a decent livelihood, his kashrus was le’mehadrin,
and his house was too. When he came away from Rebbe Nachman’s grave, his
eyes would always be swollen. He would just pour out his heart and cry
before our Rebbe. If you had seen him, you would have thought that he was
some Rebbe with his beard and peyos and tear-stained face.
This was Rebbe
Nachman’s power: to take a person like Reb Moshe Tzaddok’s who had done
such terrible things and, thank G–d, make him into what he became! It was
not just he alone, but afterwards he built a Jewish home and had a family
which was raised in holiness. He fulfilled all the mitzvos; his
hospitality was incredible. He was a wagon driver for the non-Jews too.
Thank G–d, he had a house with furnishings and there was what to eat there.
Ah, he was so hospitable! Everyone would always go into his house.
“Moshe, is there anything to eat?” Everyone would eat well. Moshe
Tzaddok’s. The poor fellow, was finished off by Hitler, may his name be
erased. One could say of him just what the Gemara says about Yoav ben Tzruya:
his house was open to the poor, and made free to all, like the wilderness.
He gave food to Jews.
What is the connection
to what we are speaking about here? It is that we should know that we have
such a great Rebbe who loves the Jewish people: a merciful leader who only
asks from us, “Listen to me! Do what I ask of you! I’m not telling you
to do anything so difficult.” Is this too hard? The night is so long; one
can get up and do such good things during that time. Chatzos lasts
for two hours. The Rebbe says that Chatzos begins six hours and
twenty minutes after the stars come out, and it lasts for two hours. For
those two hours, you have to be awake, doing good things, and this can
draw you so much closer to Hashem. This is a fundamental practice
of Judaism! Talk a little to Hashem, and make sure to recite Shema at the
right time. Pray at the right times and give a lot of charity—then you
can experience Gan Eden in this world. This is Gan Eden in this world,
and this is the Rebbe! This is what the Rebbe wants! He doesn’t want anything
else from you, he doesn’t want you to tell wondrous stories about him.
This is not the point of our Rebbe! The biggest miracle is when you take
a person the way he is, and he becomes a ba’al teshuva. That’s a
We see that the
holy writings of the Baal Shem Tov, of the Mezritcher Maggid, and all of
the books of all the holy Tzaddikim speak about Chatzos. All of
them speak about Chatzos and hisbodedus—this is the path
of the holy Baal Shem Tov, and all of them speak about making sure to recite
Shema at the proper time. Rav Tzvi Hirsch of Ziditchov, one of the later
Chassidic masters, speaks about Chatzos, with words of fire. When
he speaks about the time for prayer and reciting Shema, his words are like
fire, fiery words. He was already one of the later ones, fifty years later.
He passed away much later. When you look in his work “Sur Mei’Ra”,
you see how on fire he was: on fire about Chatzos and on fire about
We have to thank
Hashem that we don’t take the words of our Rebbe lightly. That on the contrary,
his words are important to us. We must see to it that we really do fulfill
his holy words of advice. That each of us should say to the other—be
strong! We must constantly encourage one another!
Foundation of Rebbe Nachman’s Teachings is the Attribute of Mercy.
The Rebbe said in “For a Merciful One Will Lead
Them” (Likutei Moharan II:7), that only a merciful person is fit
to be a leader. The Breslover Chassidim were wont to say, “Our Rebbe certainly
was merciful—he could show mercy to even the biggest sinner!” And
Rebbe Nachman only reached the spiritual heights that he did so that he
would be more able to recognize Hashem’s mercy! The more one grasps G–d’s
greatness, the more one can see His mercy! As it says in the holy Zohar:
“His greatness is beyond human comprehension. And just as that is the case
with His greatness, so too is it the case with His mercy.” The true Tzaddik,
the truly merciful one, spends his whole life trying to see Hashem’s mercy
more and more. And the more he has a grasp of Hashem’s mercy, the more
he can reach out to other Jews and bring them closer to Hashem. Our Rebbe’s
quality of mercy was limitless.
Rav Elazar, the son of Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk,
writes in the introduction to the “Noam Elimelech” that his father was
prepared to sacrifice his own life in his prayers for the Jewish people
every day. “My father would sacrifice his own life to pray for the Jewish
people…” The true Tzaddik is willing to sacrifice himself for the
Jewish people, and Rebbe Nachman was willing to sacrifice himself on their
behalf. That was why he sacrificed all of his achievements so that he could
draw other Jews closer to Hashem.
His closest disciple, Reb Nosson, also followed
the same path. He wrote a book that is full of mercy and encouragement,
designed to bring everyone closer to Hashem. He published his prayers,
and they’re also full of mercy. Reb Nosson was in Galicia, in Brod, when
he was older. And his prayers had already been published. There was a Jew
there who said those prayer regularly who once fell at Reb Nosson’s feet
and kissed them. “Are you the Jew who wrote these prayers?” We have no
idea what kind of mercy is in those prayers! Reb Nosson said that there
were, already, many Jews who made it in to Gan Eden because of his prayers.
Reb Nosson quoted the phrase: “…So that a people yet unborn will praise
Hashem,” in referring to his prayers. “In the future, there will be a people
who will praise Hashem using my prayers.” He was so full of mercy. That
was why he published such prayers!
And, furthermore, he wrote a book. Even though Reb
Nosson was an incredible scholar, a genius, he wrote a book that is full
of mercy! Full of encouragement! Because he knew from Rebbe Nachman that
the main purpose of his teachings was to have mercy on others and draw
them closer to Hashem.
Rebbe Nachman said one time: “Speak words that I’ve
said, tell stories that I related, and don’t even mention my name. It doesn’t
matter if someone says the grace after meals with better concentration
because of me, and he doesn’t even know that it was me who helped him!”
Rebbe Nachman was so full of mercy, he didn’t consider himself at all.
“And if people’s Jewishness will be stronger without mentioning my name,
then don’t mention my name!” And that’s really how it was on many occasions:
Great opponents of Breslov would hear statements of Rebbe Nachman’s, and
think to themselves that it was really some other Tzaddik who had
It is brought down that Reb Nosson once said that
he had such a powerful argument, for judging another person favorably,
that it could nullify a person’s free will! It is just that he cannot reveal
this argument, because then it would detract from that person’s free will.
We see then that this Jew, this Tzaddik, spent his whole life just
trying to think of ways to be merciful to other Jews. This was the very
foundation of Rebbe Nachman’s teaching. And when we see that Reb Nosson
was his closest disciple… we know that we, too, must follow this path of
mercy! We also must seek to possess this quality of mercy! Rather
than always seeking out the other person’s flaws! When we look and think
hard about our Rebbe’s path, about Reb Nosson’s path, we’ll see all the
good in them. All of their strengths, all of their accomplishments. How
much they sacrificed to be merciful to another Jew. And we have to learn
A Rebbe who was full of mercy, who sacrificed himself
and his family, his children, just to be merciful to the Jewish people!
And a disciple who was the same, we have to be so careful not to turn aside
from this path! There is nothing that gives the Rebbe more satisfaction,
that makes his lips murmur in the grave, as when we love one another. When
we judge one another favorably! When you have to reprove someone, you have
to preface it with a prayer to Hashem. “Master of the Universe! I have
to point something out to this person—help me say what I must in such a
way that he won’t feel discouraged…that he won’t feel broken.”
This is Rebbe Nachman’s way, and this is the path
we must take. Today is the anniversary of Reb Nosson’s passing. We have
to make some kind of a resolution to keep to this path, so that he will
have some nachas (deep satisfaction) from us. We never knew Reb
Nosson, but we did see his followers. And they all followed this path—there
was such love between them!
It says in this week’s Torah portion: “…their swords
are stolen weapons.” Shimon and Levi were two Tzaddikim, and they
went with stolen weapons—with swords. And their father chastised them because
of this: “This is not my way! My way is to use my voice! You stole Esav’s
weapons from him—swords are his way!”
Reb Nosson once gave a talk about judging others
favorably, and he spoke very strongly. One of the listeners heard him speak,
and then waited. After Reb Nosson had finished his talk, this man approached
Reb Nosson. “Reb Nosson! I have something to discuss with you… I thought
that I was lost, that I would never have any hope! But after hearing your
talk, I want to speak with you. Maybe there is some hope left in the world
for me…” He told Reb Nosson his story—and even though the story is well
known among Breslovers, I’ll go over it again… This man was from Vilna.
In Vilna, there was a grand synagogue, whose Torah scrolls were crowned
with gold and silver. There was a lot of wealth there. Thieves set their
sights on this synagogue, and contrived to steal this treasure that crowned
it’s Torah scrolls. But they couldn’t figure out a good time to pull off
the theft, since there was always someone on guard over the synagogue.
The thieves thought to themselves, when would be a good time to come and
rob the synagogue? And they hit upon a plan: The night of Yom Kippur! Kol
Nidrei! The public will be saying psalms, and will be sleepy, and the guard
will not be on duty. That’s their opportunity to steal the wealth that
crowns the Torah scrolls. The thieves planned out their operation and pulled
it off—they stole everything… People came early to the synagogue, opened
the ark, and found…that everything was gone! All the crowns were on the
Torah scrolls last night…and now it’s all gone!
“Gevaldt! How could they commit such an act…on Kol
Nidrei night?! Such a thing?!” What an uproar it caused… This is a story
that happened more than one hundred and fifty years ago. The Rabbis and
great sages of the time pronounced a writ of excommunication: “Anyone who
has anything to do with the theft, anyone who is involved or possesses
some information about it, should know that he is excommunicated if he
does not come forth!” So this Jew said to Reb Nosson: “I wasn’t the thief,
but I knew something about it—and I was therefore part of the excommunication
too. To be excommunicated by such great sages! I thought that I must be
lost forever, that I have no chance, no hope… But when I heard such encouraging
words from you, I want to ask you, if perhaps there is hope for me too…”
We don’t know what Reb Nosson told him. Reb Nosson encouraged him that
there is hope for him too… He must have given him some Torah–true advice.
We learn something from this story, when we visualize
what happened. A person did such a thing, on Yom Kippur night…Kol Nidrei…it’s
awful! It says, “Even the fish in the sea are fearful of Hashem on this
night…” And a person did such a thing at that time, took such crowns, such
wealth. And he was involved, and had such an excommunication pronounced
on him! How can anyone judge such a person favorably?! And
yet Reb Nosson encouraged even such a man! He also said to this
man, “You, too, are not lost!…”
What would happen nowadays if someone would come
into our synagogue with his hands covered in ink… He writes on Shabbos,
he works, say, as a printer, and he comes in to pray with us on Shabbos
with ink all over his hands? What would happen if he would raise his hands
up during the recitation of “Kesser” to show off that his hands
are covered in ink… What would we do with such a person? Wouldn’t we just
beat him up and toss him out! But just such a person came into Reb Nosson’s
synagogue, a Shabbos violator—a man who transgressed the Shabbos in public…
He raised his hands up during “Kesser” to show everyone that they
were covered with ink. And Reb Nosson said, “Leave him be!… If he came
to us here, it means that something may yet come of him!” The end of the
story is that the man repented so fully that Reb Nosson said, “I will be
able to boast before the Throne of Glory about two people…” And he was
one of those people.
We see how merciful Reb Nosson was from this episode!
What kind of path he inherited from our holy Rebbe—this closest disciple
of our Rebbe. That such a sinner…such a flagrant desecrator of the Shabbos…
A person who would lift up his hands to show others, “See how covered in
ink they are…” Reb Nosson didn’t command the rest to toss him out! He didn’t
tell them to hurt him! And afterward he repented so sincerely that Reb
Nosson said about him, that he would be able to boast before the Throne
of Glory that he had brought such a man closer to Hashem.
Rebbe Nachman said: “No one knows anything of me
except for Nosson and Naftali.” Here we see that the Rebbe testified about
Reb Nosson that, “he does indeed know.” What does “knowing of me” mean?
Reb Nosson knew what our Rebbe wanted, our Rebbe’s purpose in this world,
all that we need to learn from Rebbe Nachman. This is what he knew better
than anyone else, better than the rest of the Rebbe’s students. None of
them knew how to encourage himself in the same powerful way that Reb Nosson
did. Reb Nosson once said, he mentioned several great
and said, “How did this Tzaddik get to be what he was? Because he
knew how to encourage himself.” Reb Nosson continued to list other Tzaddikim
and said the same about them. Then he finished off by saying, “And how
did I get to be what I am? Because I too know how to encourage myself!”
We see from this that Reb Nosson’s whole approach was based on self–encouragement,
mercy, and his willingness to judge the other person favorably. There are
other stories about great ba’alei teshuva who had been by us, people
who we would throw out today…we wouldn’t even want to speak with them.
The older Chassidim of earlier generations, the previous generation, knew
that this is not the way of our Rebbe.
One person was very far from Judaism. He was very
wealthy and lived in Odessa. He had a bank—he was a banker. He was a grandson
of Reb Lipa, and he had a very bad reputation…[It is important to note
here that one should not learn from this story that we ought to encourage
sinners to join the community. Rather, it means that we are prohibited
from driving away those who have come on their own initiative, as long
as their participation does not have a negative impact on the rest of the
community.] One of the more prominent Breslovers, I don’t want to mention
his name, a very great person, said to him: “It shames us that you’ve come
to us for Rosh Hashanah.” Because of that, this man fell away completely.
The other Breslovers said to this prominent Chassid: “Why did you drive
this Jew away?” We were ridiculed because of him. He had a bad reputation,
but even so they said: “Why did you drive this Jew away? Why did you tell
this Jew that we find that his coming to us for Rosh Hashanah shameful?
Did he come to you? He came to the Rebbe! If Rebbe Nachman doesn’t want
him, then he can drive him away himself!” And this Jew, who said this,
was one of the great ones. He wasn’t just a simple person, he was one of
the great Breslovers. He was a Tzaddik and a scholar. “Why did you
drive this Jew away? Maybe Rebbe Nachman didn’t want him to be driven away.”
There are other stories like this, about people
who had done similarly base sins… But no one was driven away! Today, however,
we have our own path: “I don’t like this one, and I don’t like that one…!”
Reb Nosson once went to Reb Meir Tepliker during the time that he lived
in Teplik. Reb Nosson was an expert on Teplik, familiar with all its streets.
He asked Reb Meir about one of the Breslovers in the town, and Reb Meir
screwed up his mouth in response. Reb Nosson asked about someone else,
and Reb Meir responded the same way. Reb Nosson went on with him around
the town and asked about all the Breslovers who lived in Teplik one after
another. Reb Nosson then asked him about himself: “Nu! Are you a proper
Jew?!” Reb Meir answered: “Me?! Certainly not.” “Nu! So then no one is?!”
Reb Nosson started to go back over the list with him. And about every person
that Reb Meir had dismissed, Reb Nosson said: “This one has this kind of
a good in him…and this other one has a different kind of good in him…and
you have good in you too.”
We see from this that Reb Nosson did not approve
of how Reb Meir Tepliker had answered him about the Breslovers in Teplik.
It is certain that they were not of Reb Meir’s caliber. None of them had
the feel for Reb Nosson that Reb Meir did. Even so, Reb Nosson’s way was
not to do as Reb Meir had done. “He screws up his mouth when I ask about
anyone?! Screws up his mouth?!” He then went over the list with Reb Meir,
and taught him about each one of them: “This one has this good, and that
one has another kind of good. And you also have some good in you.”
There are other stories like this about great Breslovers,
and we know that this indeed was our path. When they had to give some criticism
to someone, they would prepare themselves beforehand to devise some way
to speak without embarrassing the one they had to criticize. How to do
it without causing him any grief. With someone who has stumbled in sin,
one could easily cause him grief. He could then fall away completely, he
could become completely distant.
Reb Nosson was once in his son Yitzchak’s house.
A person came, a famous heretic, who intended to travel to Berlin to complete
his studies with a well known personality [Moses Mendelssohn]. He entered
Reb Yitzchak’s home to hire a place on the post–chaise so that he could
continue his journey. In the meanwhile, Reb Nosson was also in the house.
The heretic asked Reb Yitzchak: “Who is that elderly Jew walking around
the house?” He answered: “That is my father.” “Could I speak with him?”
“Yes, you can speak with him.” This person is on his way to Berlin, G–d
have mercy, to become whatever he will become. This great heretic… Reb
Nosson began to speak with him, and he didn’t continue his journey to Berlin.
He became a great ba’al teshuva. These are the two people about
whom Reb Nosson said he could be proud. This Berliner, and the one who
raised his hands that were covered in ink. “I will be able to boast before
the Throne of Glory that I brought such people closer to Hashem.”
Reb Nosson knew very well that many Tzaddikim
had lived before Yisro, as the holy Zohar says. There were the holy Patriarchs,
Moshe Rabbeinu, and other Tzaddikim like them. Even so: “When Yisro
came [when he recognized Hashem], Hashem’s Name was glorified above and
below.” [Parshas Yisro 89] More than in all the previous generations… We
see from this what Hashem’s Will is, what Hashem wants. This is what the
Rebbe says in lesson 62: “To adorn faith—the adornments of faith—is only
achieved by bringing those who are far from Hashem closer to Him.” If so,
if it is necessary to draw those who are far away closer, then certainly
those who are considered Breslovers should not be thrust away. I certainly
must judge them favorably… We aren’t speaking here to sound off and rebuke.
I just mean to speak the truth.
I came into my own in Uman. When I was seventeen
years old, I was in Uman. Even so, I gave it a lot of thought, and I saw
how the older Breslovers acted. You can believe me…: “This is not the way
we do things! This is not our way!” We must beg Hashem: “Master of the
Universe! Drive this way out of me—Am I not a Breslover Chassid?!”
Today, people talk about not eating raw onion, not smoking cigarettes,
not taking snuff—of course, if a person didn’t have faith in Rebbe Nachman’s
words about these things, it would mean that his faith is flawed. But our
faith in the Sages is certainly flawed if we don’t follow the path that
Rebbe Nachman taught us…
If people think that this will inspire them to pray
and learn better, they are greatly mistaken! If you pay close attention
you will see, if I speak about another person, afterwards I find myself
unable to pray…This is a great general principle. If you pay close attention,
you’ll see this. If I speak about someone else, I can’t pray afterward…Before
praying, we are obligated to love our fellow Jews, one must accept the
obligation of “Love your neighbor as yourself” before prayer. [Pri Eitz
Chayim, Sha’ar Olam HaAsiyah 81] If I speak about someone else, I can’t
We have to take stock of ourselves. “Why is it so important to
talk about him?! By doing it, I’m not following Rebbe Nachman’s instructions…Because
of it, I won’t be able to pray. So why should I do it?!” Why shouldn’t
there be love among us, such love that even people from outside could sense
it? Rebbe Nachman said: “The world will be amazed at the love that exists
between my people.” [Chayei Moharan, #292.] We ask from our fellow
Breslovers: Every day you must ask Hashem during your hisbodedus:
“Master of the Universe! Take this bad trait out of me, this desire to
only see what is bad about the other person. Put such goodness into me,
that I will only see the good that is in others.”
[As the cassette continues, one hears the reading
of the letter describing Reb Nosson’s passing which is printed at the end
of Alim Le’Terufah. As he read the letter, when he reached the following
paragraph, Rav Levi Yitzchak again expanded on the subject dealt with above.
These are his words:] “…Afterward, Reb Meir Yehuda came to him”—this is
Reb Meir Leib, the Rebbe of Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman. “And he said: Even
if a person will be the worst sinner, the main thing is that he holds strong
in his attachment to Rebbe Nachman. Then, he will certainly repent and
achieve a tikkun…” Indeed, it is brought in Chayei Moharan
[#302] that Rebbe Nachman said: “Hashem will not take one of my people
before his time” meaning, without his having repented. If we will only
hold strong in our attachment to our Rebbe, then we certainly will repent…to
leave this world having repented is a very great thing. If we will hold
strong in our attachment to our Rebbe, then we will certainly repent!
We spoke already about our need to hold strong in
our attachment to our Rebbe, to learn his works, to learn about the advice
he gave. The main thing is, and I will repeat myself here: Rebbe Nachman’s
main point was mercy, to always act mercifully, not with the attribute
of stern judgment… The Rebbe brings in Likutei Moharan I:72: “The
evil inclination derives its sustenance from judgments.” When a person
acts with the attribute of stern judgment, the evil inclination is nourished
by him. One must go only with mercy, only mercy…
Even in one’s home, one must act only with mercy.
In running the home, one must certainly only act mercifully… This is what
is called “holding strong in our attachment to our Rebbe”. The main aspect
of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings, the foundation of Rebbe Nachman’s path, was
simply to act mercifully. This is the matter of “A merciful one shall lead
them.” A merciful one leads. This applies to every single person. If he
acts mercifully, then he can lead his household…and then everyone can get
along. Only with mercy…then we will certainly merit to repent.
[Here he returned to reading from the letter. When
he reached the following paragraph, he again expanded on the same point
discussed above. These are his words:] “…And he spoke about the matter
of the seventy–two strings…” This matter is brought in the lesson “Sound
the shofar—Rebuke” (Likutei Moharan II:8). This was the final
lesson that Rebbe Nachman delivered, his leave–taking of the Breslover
Chassidim. Rebbe Nachman says something astounding there. He brings the
Gemara in Erechin 16b: “I wonder if anyone in this generation is
fit to give rebuke…” The Rebbe speaks there about rebuke, that it must
be given as if one was playing music, with such kindness. The seventy–two
strings also allude to loving kindness [the gematria of “chessed”
is 72]. Moshiach will speak this melody of seventy–two strings and bring
the entire world close to Hashem with this music, this melody of kindness,
this music of love.
Rebbe Nachman said: “Moshiach will conquer the world
without firing a single shot.” [Siach Sarfei Kodesh II:67] If someone
would raise his voice a little bit too much, the Breslovers used to say
to him: “Aha? You’re already shooting arrows? This shows you’re already
shooting arrows!” That was how our people were—if someone raised his voice
a little bit, they called it shooting arrows… They knew that a statement
of our Rebbe’s, a statement that Rebbe Nachman made, was meant to hold
true during Rebbe Nachman’s lifetime, and also after his passing. The statement
would hold true during the time of Moshiach, and even afterward… It’s possible
to conquer the entire world…without firing a single shot. This is called
a “song played on seventy–two strings.”
[The reading of the letter is again heard on the
cassette, and Rav Levi Yitzchak went on to elaborate when he reached the
following paragraph:] “…Before the day broke…he spoke at great length,
almost as if he was giving over his last will and testament. This is what
he said…:” Ah, we see the words of Reb Nosson before his passing! He must
have felt so intensely just then! “…You must hold strong together, with
a powerful love for one another…” I heard from Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman:
“Why did Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai succeed? Because his students loved one
another! They loved each other so much, that was why he succeeded, and
that was how he became worthy…Others did not succeed the way that he did.”
Reb Nosson left such a last
will and testament for us: “You must hold strong together, with a powerful
love for one another…” How can we say differently when we have a last will
and testament from Reb Nosson that he said on his very last day: “You must
hold strong together, with a powerful love for one another. You are worthy
people, but you are
shlemazelniks…” Here we have another statement
of Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman: “Rebbe Nachman is so great, no matter how
great a person is, Rebbe Nachman’s light is too great for him to bring
inside. But when we hold strong together, then we can bring Rebbe Nachman’s
light inside ourselves.” One person, alone, cannot! You are worthy people,
but you must hold strong together as one. Only then you will be able to
bring this great light into yourselves…
He Brought Me Back to Life. (Based on Chayei Moharan #49.)
In Rebbe Nachman’s
lesson “Va’Eschanan” (Likutei Moharan II:78), he says that
it is forbidden for a person to give up hope, no matter what. He said the
following words: “It is forbidden to despair! Gevaldt! Never despair!”
Rebbe Nachman drew out that word “Gevaldt” like a person who is issuing
a warning and is crying from the bottom of his heart. “Gevaldt! Never despair!”
In Uman, I heard from other Breslovers that Rebbe Nachman cried “Gevaldt!
Never despair!” so loudly, that his voice can still be heard today. One
can still hear, “Gevaldt! Never despair!”
This matter of despair, of
“Never despair,” requires a lot of study. When a person struggles with
himself for the sake of his Yiddishkeit, he wants something. At
the same time, the yetzer hara [evil inclination] burns inside of
him…He must know how to really encourage himself, so that he doesn’t despair.
So that he will know that a little is also good…
Reb Yisroel Abba Rosenfeld,
the father of Reb Tzvi Aryeh, was in Uman. I, myself, remember him from
Uman. There were five Rosenfeld brothers, and all of them were great people.
Reb Moshe Ber’s father was one of those brothers—his name was Reb Shmuel
Yitzchak. The others were called Reb Simcha, Reb Aharon, Reb Hirsch Leib,
and Reb Yisrael Abba. All of them were the sons of Reb Yehuda the son of
Reb Simcha. All were descendants of Rav Aharon the Rav of Breslov and Rav
Shmuel Yitzchak, the Rav of Tcherin. Rav Aharon the Rav of Breslov became
related by marriage to Rav Shmuel Yitzchak, the Rav of Tcherin, and the
children are descendants of both of them—both were their grandfathers.
Both grandfather’s names were engraved on Reb Tzvi Aryeh’s tombstone.
Rav Shmuel Yitzchak was the Rav of Tcherin, so
we really had set a precedent that the local Rav would be a Breslover since
Rav Shmuel Yitzchak had been the Rav there. The Misnagdim also had
their own Rav.
When he passed away, we wanted
that one of our own should be the Rav there. Nu, you need a learned Rav,
but Rav Nachman the son of Reb Tzvi Aryeh, the son of Rav Aharon Goldstein
(both his father and grandfather had served as Rabbi in Breslov) didn’t
want to be the Rav of Tcherin. The Breslovers from Tcherin traveled from
their town to Reb Naftali and asked him to intercede with Rav Nachman on
their behalf. Reb Naftali did so, and convinced Rav Nachman to move to
Tcherin (He was later called the Tcheriner Rav).
Reb Naftali said to him: “You
aren’t going there to be the Rabbi…You will sit and learn like you always
do. The only difference will be, if someone asks you a question that you
know the answer to and he doesn’t, why shouldn’t you answer it?! You know,
and he doesn’t!” The Tcheriner Rav said that during all the years he served
as Rabbi, he acted exactly the way Reb Naftali had taught him. He sat and
learned completely sequestered, he was incredibly humble…he hardly even
spoke with his own children. That was just the way he behaved… There was
another Rabbi there, Rav Yechezkel, from Tcherkos. He was also one of a
kind, and he knew how great the Tcheriner Rav was, and had great respect
for him. Practically speaking, he was also a Rabbi. He was able to decide
questions of law, but if there was a divorce, he would only agree to be
the one to fill in the names [i.e. but he would not agree to be the presiding
Reb Aharon—one of the five
brothers—was a formidable person…he literally had a spirit of prophecy.
He was a very great man…he had such a face—a face that shone with attachment
to G–d. Gevaldt! In the previous war, before 1914, [the Russian–Japanese
war] Reb Aharon was a soldier and it happened that he was stationed near
Uman. They fought trench warfare then, each soldier in a trench. He could
only shoot from down in the trench. I heard a story about Reb Aharon, that
he was lying in a trench and there was so much enemy fire that it seemed
impossible that he should make it out alive. They fired on him so relentlessly,
he couldn’t even raise his head. He just lay down in the trench and there
was only a tiny hole from which he could shoot. It was a terrifying situation,
he was already beyond all hope… He was thinking to himself that he wouldn’t
be able to hold on any longer. Suddenly someone came to him, Reb Aharon
didn’t know who it was. He said: “My son! Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid!”
Reb Aharon would say: “It was Eliyahu the prophet for certain! There was
no way in the world that anyone could have got into that trench with me.
It can only have been Eliyahu the prophet…” He was a great man, this Reb
Aharon. His attachment to Hashem…he was the kind of a person who was fit
to receive a revelation of Eliyahu the prophet…he was an awe–inspiring
Reb Simcha was another of
the five brothers. He had a son in Tel Aviv named Reb Pinchas, and he was
buried on the Mount of Olives. Reb Eliyahu Chayim spent Pesach once in
Tcherin, he ate at Reb Simcha’s house. Reb Eliyahu Chayim told me: “Reb
Simcha’s seder was so full of light…he lit up the table. There was so much
inspiration there…” Reb Yisrael Abba was the youngest of the brothers,
he was the most “modern” of them. During my time, he used to go around
with a slightly trimmed beard and he also wore a large ring on his hand.
But was he strong! When it came to Breslov Chassidus, he was very strong
He came to me once, because
we were very good friends in Uman. He was very wealthy, all five brothers
were very wealthy. He had spent the whole year immersed in his business,
in making money…and approaching Rosh Hashanah, he was feeling a little
down. He came to me and said: “I just spoke with Rav Avraham b’Rav Nachman,
I told him about how it’s been for me all year long…and he brought me back
to life! He literally brought me back to life! He said to me, ‘A little
is also good!!! A little is also good!!!’” When Rav Avraham said something,
he really said it…he could shoot straight into whoever he was talking to.
“He brought me back to life! He said to me, ‘A little is also good!’” This
Reb Yisrael Abba, in the end, turned out to be one of the best of the five
brothers. He left behind a very lovely family—the son, and grandchildren,
and sons–in–law, generations of Breslover Chassidim.
Reb Moshe Ber, the son of
Reb Shmuel Yitzchak, during World War One was a tall strong man. Of course
they wanted to draft him. There was an army of twenty million men, they
fell like straw. Did it bother the Russians, twenty million men? So there
would be twenty million others! It was terrible then… As could be expected,
in this kind of situation, he ran away and slept in the synagogue. He hid
in the synagogue of Uman. There was a police officer, a “chevraman”,
who knew not to bother with us. We used to walk in the middle of the road,
walk around outside, bake bread and go shopping, and he didn’t bother us
at all…Breslovers! But this officer was interested in Reb Moshe Ber…He
said to us: “Someone that we’re looking for is hiding among you!” They
almost caught him once…he was sleeping. He ran out of the synagogue and
they ran after him. He doubled back on them and they couldn’t catch him.
But this officer would say to us, “There is one of you that we need—we’re
looking for him!” What Reb Moshe Ber had to go through with that officer
was awful. So where could he go? To the Rebbe’s grave site! At Rebbe Nachman’s
grave, he could pour out everything that was on his heart, he could get
(Someone asked: “Didn’t Rav
Avraham b’Rav Nachman once say to him, ‘A person who is on the road in
the dark should give away all his money…”) No, he said that to Reb Abba.
Perhaps to Reb Moshe Ber as well, it could be. So what saved him? Reb Moshe
Ber was an incredible weeper…he used to go to Rebbe Nachman’s grave…it’s
impossible to describe. Like a fountain, a fountain. And he really was
saved… When things got too difficult for him in Uman, he hid in Dimitrivka
near Tcherin. I once went in to his hiding place there, oh, was he miserable.
He was literally underground, hiding, and they were looking for him there
too. It was awful. His life couldn’t have been called living. He used to
ask, “What can you do?” They used to really search for him, he had caught
their eye. They saw that he was strong and healthy. “Why doesn’t he want
to go? Why is he hiding?” The law was so severe then, they could take a
man and shoot him… That was how he lived through all the war years, until
it ended, until the Communists took over. They killed the Czar and the
war was over.
Moshe Ber once said: “Will
any humanity ever come from me?” And Hashem had mercy on him, and he married.
Thank G–d, he had beautiful descendants…lovely children…and grandchildren.
I said to him once, this is something you have to cry for! Tears! Such
an advice that is…Cry! Cry! He used to cry so much to Hashem, that Hashem
should have mercy on him. He was so miserable, a young man on the run like
that. And afterward…and he had been so handsome… Ah…everything is summed
up by what Rebbe Nachman said: “Don’t despair! Never give up!” When we
became friends, I would speak with him and encourage him, I used to say:
“Why talk to me about it? Go to the Rebbe’s grave and unburden all the
bitterness in your heart there! How can I help you? The only thing I can
do is tell you—just go there! There is the place for you! And don’t be
silent! Don’t be silent!” This matter of: “Don’t despair!”—It is such a
statement, such an advice, “Never give up!”
Moshe Ber was a very charitable
man. There were times when he literally gave everything that he had. There
were those who disparaged him for this, but he was so charitable…it’s indescribable.
It’s impossible to describe how much he gave. He remembered what Hashem
had done for him. He remembered well what his life had been like, and how
Hashem had saved him. He reached Eretz Yisrael fourteen years before I
did, in 5695.
This statement of Rebbe Nachman’s:
“Gevaldt! Don’t despair!” is something that can help every person whatever
his level. A person wants to be a proper Jew, he wants, he wants…but his
evil inclination doesn’t let him! He mustn’t stop wanting. “Even so, I
still want! So they tell me I have to wait? I’ll wait! But I still want!”
A man needs to know how to encourage himself. When they tell you to wait,
you must wait! Why do they tell him to wait? Why not give it to him right
away? Only because it is impossible to give it to him yet! He is working
hard on some character trait—but they can’t give it to him yet. He isn’t
worthy of receiving it right away! But it is very important in heaven that
he wants it: “You want this? You will get it! But, in the meanwhile, you
have to wait!” Wait—how long? It is forbidden for you, yourself, to know
how long you will have to wait! When they say wait, you wait…but when they
tell you to wait, you must not stop wanting! Sometimes, they say to a person
to wait and they don’t give it to him—and he stops wanting it. “They won’t
give it to me? Apparently, they don’t want me! If not, then that’s it.
If that is the case, then I can’t be a proper Jew…” No, it isn’t because
they don’t want to give it to you that they don’t give it to you! It is
only that they can’t give it to you right away! They can’t give it to you
You want something, you want
to be able to pray an unadulterated Shemonah Esrei [without a single “outside’
thought]. You may want other things like that, but it isn’t possible for
them to give it to you right away. Only if you obey and wait, and wait…you
will really become worthy so that they can give it to you. But not in the
meanwhile. And if it is impossible up above, then it is out of place to
say: “I want it now!” Wanting itself it also very good. It generates incredible
satisfaction up above: “He wants…!” It is just like being a merchant—if
things don’t go well for him, does he stop being a businessman? He wants,
he does business, he will keep trying again and again.
It says in the Gemara (Berachos
32): “Three things require encouragement: Torah, prayer, and derech
eretz.” This is without even talking about a person’s need to encourage
himself to follow Rebbe Nachman’s path. To keep from abandoning the main
point, a person needs powerful self–encouragement. That is what Rebbe Nachman
was speaking of when he said, “Gevaldt! Never despair!”
When Rebbe Nachman said this,
who was he speaking to? It was said on Shabbos Nachamu, and his words apply
to the greatest and the smallest person. Every person on his level, whatever
he is, however he is. They say to him: “Don’t despair!” Also the smaller
person is told this, at his own level, but everyone is told the same thing:
“Don’t despair!” When a great person wants something, he also needs a great
deal of self–encouragement so that he won’t stop wanting it. We’re not
only talking about someone who has come close to Rebbe Nachman’s path.
Hashem has helped him so that he is not an opponent, and Rabbeinu’s words
are important to him. He attaches himself to Rebbe Nachman’s works—he wants
something! He wants! There is a phrase: “I am still completely outside…”
A person can even revive himself simply with the thought that, “Thank G–d,
at least I don’t oppose Rebbe Nachman.” But we are still standing completely
With regards to Rebbe Nachman’s
path, if we approach it the way we should, it really is possible to become
a worthy person! Of course, everything that we accomplish is good. We have
to be so happy with a little bit, maybe that alone will help us, so that
later, we will accomplish even more. But people become complacent and stop
renewing themselves. Rebbe Nachman said: “There is a great person (we don’t
reveal who he said this about) who, in his old age, stopped renewing himself…”
Self–renewal is a fundamental aspect of Judaism!
A person lies down to sleep:
“Master of the Universe! Have mercy on me that I should get up on time!”
And he should renew himself and get up immediately on time. And if it didn’t
work out? He slept, he slept past the time? So when he gets up, he should
say to himself: “All I can do is to beg Hashem, with a special prayer,
that I should get up for Chatzos on time…that I should get up…that
I should get up. To renew myself at that time.” And if it still doesn’t
work out? He must keep on begging… This is how it is with everything. Every
point that has some connection to Rebbe Nachman’s path requires a great
deal of self–encouragement! Because the yetzer hara can’t stand
it! He doesn’t have too many people who want, people who never stop wanting,
who always encourage themselves with their holy desires. He wants. He wants
to be a good Jew! He wants!
Everyone knows what they lack.
And for everything that a person lacks, he must struggle, he must be obstinate,
he must be willing to lay himself on the line for that very thing. Who
knows if the only reason why he came down to this world was not to accomplish
precisely that? The clue for this is: “When something burns within you
so much…” That is how you can know that you came to this world to repair
that very thing. But, what must you do? Don’t be silent! Don’t be silent!
Don’t be silent! When a person sees that he has attempted something several
times and he hasn’t accomplished it, is he allowed to say: “This isn’t
for me.” No! It is forbidden to say that! What happened that it isn’t for
you? Are you not a Jew? Why isn’t it for you? A day will come when we will
truly feel the words: “Do not despair! Do not stop wanting! Do not stop
There was an elderly Jew named
Reb Yisrael of Terhovitza. He literally had the divine spirit, people told
such stories about him. He was an incredible person. At the age of eighty
years old he would stand at Rabbeinu’s grave and cry out: “Such a
pathetic person I am! Such a miserable creature!” As if he was a real sinner!
He really felt the lack of what he was aspiring to. “How can I live without
this? I’m so unfortunate…if I don’t have this, then I’m not even a human
being!” During the last years of his life, he lived in a little room next
to the mikveh—practically inside the mikveh. They let him
have that room, such a tiny room. He and his wife used to get up for Chatzos.
She also used to get up for Chatzos. He would say to her: “Mention
this one’s name…pray for this one. Mention that one’s name, and mention
this other one’s name…” Two Tzaddikim. “Pray for this one for health
and salvation…” Rebbe Nachman’s path leads to such a true life. In the
world at large, it is hardly to be found, that an elderly Jew will cry
out: “See what an unfortunate man I am!” An elderly Jew that is renewing
himself?! An elderly Jew usually remains the way he is until the end…
Reb Boruch Getz’s told me
such a story about him. Reb Boruch had the key to Rabbeinu’s grave site.
Once, there was a great snowfall and the snow covered up the grave site.
It was completely covered, and it was impossible to reach it. You couldn’t
even see where it was. Reb Boruch pushed aside the snow with his feet,
with his hands. He saw near the gate that the snow was moving, the snow
was moving…Reb Boruch approached the gate and found Reb Yisrael Terhovitza
covered in snow. He didn’t have the key to get in, so he simply stood at
the gate and refused to leave. An elderly Jew, some eighty years old, is
standing there—he could have frozen to death! And the snow had covered
Reb Boruch said to him: “Reb
Yisrael?! Gevaldt!” Boruch himself was obstinate, but even he was taken
aback. Reb Yisrael answered: “If I have come to Rabbeinu, and there is
such a snowfall that I cannot get in, will I just go on my way? I’ll wait
until the way is clear!!!” Reb Yisrael, an elderly Jew, and he thought
so much about the ultimate goal. “If I will get there, and they won’t open
up...” The yetzer hara can also come in the form of snow—he can
make snow too. He can do anything… His main goal is to make a person give
If someone can’t, then he
can’t. But this matter of, “Don’t stop wanting,” anyone can do that any
time. The truth might really be that you have to wait—they might say up
above: “No! You must wait!” But to stop wanting, that is never allowed.
Even, G–d protect us, if a person is lying in bed, sick. To keep on wanting:
“You can’t take that away from me.” Rashi, on the phrase: “Until it is
wanted” (Shir HaShirim 2:6), explains it as meaning, “as long as
it is wanted.” If you still yearn, desire, long, “as long as it is wanted,”
then you can’t do anything to me. I want! And I don’t stop wanting! The
hara then retorts: “What do you want? How? Can you ever achieve it?
There is no hope!” A person must be able to answer the yetzer hara;
“Go ahead and mock me, but I still want it! I still want to be a good Jew!
I still want!” This is the only thing that the yetzer hara wants:
“Stop wanting.” For this you need self–encouragement, everyone in his own
One person does not need to
know about the other. You can speak words of encouragement to each other
without knowing what other people need to be encouraged about. You, for
your own issue, and him for his own. “Strengthen yourself in Rabbeinu’s
way! Strengthen yourself in Rabbeinu’s advice! And don’t stop wanting!
Again and again! Even so, I want! Even so, I want!” I remember listening
to Reb Yisrael Cohen praying. He was a powerful prayer leader and he cried
out from within himself: “Fortunate is the man who heeds Your commands!
Fortunate is the man! He cried out with such attachment to G–d, “Fortunate
is the man!” With every bit of himself! Fortunate is that man! Fortunate
is that man! Reb Nosson would say: “Fortunate is the worthy man! Fortunate
is the man, the worthy man. Whoever he is, I’m jealous of him. Even
though I don’t know who he is, fortunate is he!
Rav Avraham b’Rav Nachman
always used to say: “Reb Nosson used to say about my father, ‘Perhaps you’re
the worthy man?’” Fortunate is the man! Fortunate is the man! About whom
can you possibly say in this world, “Fortunate is he?” About someone who
is healthy? About someone who is wealthy? No. Fortunate is the man…who
heeds Your commands! Who places Your Torah on his heart! About such a person,
one could say, “He is fortunate.” What comes out of this world is absolutely
nothing. Someone who has something set aside for the next world, he is
fortunate. We have to review this very well. “Fortunate is the man,” only
applies to a person who wants and wants and wants. He doesn’t stop wanting.
I remember being together
with the other young men in the synagogue. There were a few young men there,
maybe twenty. As usual, because we were all poor—we didn’t have anything
to eat. For Friday night, Rachel (Rav Avraham b’Rav Nachman’s sister) would
cook us a small pot of food. We would collect a sack of bread from a few
houses. That was it, that was our Friday night meal. Once, someone came
to the synagogue. He was a very wealthy man, Reb Moshe Bernstein, who lived
near the synagogue. He was very rich—he had houses in Warsaw—he was a millionaire.
He came into the synagogue one Friday night. “Give me a guest. I want to
take one of you as a guest for Shabbos.” And no one wanted to go! He started
to shout, “You shleppers, I want to take one of you as my guest, and no
one wants to come with me?!” Why didn’t anyone want to go? Because we felt
so revitalized when we sang Shalom Aleichem, Eishes Chayil,
and Azamer Bi’Shvachin together. We sat at the table and never noticed
that it was empty of food. It didn’t seem that way. That was why no one
wanted to go with him.
Ah, there is such spiritual
life–force in Rabbeinu’s way. So much life. Rabbeinu’s way is filled with
the real spiritual power of Yiddishkeit. However, it’s the kind
of thing that you have to search for. You have to seek it out—and to know
for certain that it is there!
What are we talking about?
What conclusion can one draw from our words? There are many good things
to be found within Rabbeinu’s way. You just have to be stubborn. “I want!
I want!” You can’t push for something before its time, but you still must
not stop wanting. Even after living a long life, when you’ll be an old
man of one hundred and twenty years, you can’t stop wanting! If you really
want, then you’ll certainly get. Desire alone is considered very important
in heaven! When a person wants and he gets it, and he stops wanting—that
is a flaw! The entire issue of self–encouragement, “Don’t despair,” applies
to everyone. “Don’t give up! Don’t stop wanting!”
When a person wants to repent
and become an observant Jew, people say to him, “Don’t give up!” But, in
truth, this applies to everyone. “Don’t give up! You want something good
and you despair because maybe you’ll never get it? Don’t give up! Don’t
despair!” Reb Nosson once named a number of Tzaddikim and said,
“Why was this Tzaddik so great? Because he had such a store of self–encouragement
inside himself!” He went on to mention a number of Tzaddikim this
way. “And how did I get to be what I am? Because I have such a store of
self–encouragement within me!” All of these great men, these pillars of
the world, were at a certain point in real danger.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai lived
for so many years in a cave. The Caesar was searching for him in order
to kill him. How much did he search? He overturned the entire world looking
for Rabbi Shimon! But Eliyahu the prophet had hidden him away. So Rabbi
Shimon bar Yochai sat for thirteen years in the cave! Once upon a time,
Eretz Yisrael was very small, how could he possibly escape if the Caesar
was looking for him? He would certainly find him. But…he sat in the cave
for thirteen years! They wanted to kill him! The Caesar wanted to kill
him! He sat with his son Eliezer. It was the very same thing with the holy
Ari. The Maharshal wanted to excommunicate him. And they did, in fact,
excommunicate the holy Baal Shem Tov. It’s terrible. All of these great
men, these pillars of the world, were so persecuted! They were just hounded
and hounded! Yet they were like a wall. “I am a wall! I am a wall!” “If
she is a wall, we will build a silver palace upon her. And if she is a
door, we will fix a board of cedar upon her.” A door opens, it wavers.
That is why a person has to be like a wall. “I am holding my self firm
in my convictions!” (Rashi on Shir HaShirim 8:9-10)
The Idra [of Rabbi Shimon
bar Yochai] begins with the sections called, “Chad Katirah” (One
Bond). He lived a life of one unbroken bond with Hashem! He bound himself
to Hashem. Well, he could—he had such a group of companions! A single,
unbroken bond! It is as if a person describes himself as living in total
and uninterrupted attachment to Hashem. Unbroken—that is the meaning of
one bond. One time, Reb Yossi fell slightly from his constant attachment
to Hashem. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai immediately said to him, “Yossi, Yossi,
a letter is now missing from your name!” One, unbroken bond! What companions!
This applies to every single
person, to never stop wanting! Don’t stop! I want what I want, but I want
it nonetheless! I want it nonetheless! When a person wants something for
so many years and he doesn’t receive it, he needs a lot of self–encouragement
to keep on wanting. How did each Tzaddik get to be the way he is?
Because he has so much self–encouragement within him! So much self–encouragement!
That is how there were such worthy people, once upon a time. That was how
Reb Matis got to be Reb Matis!
Matis was the son–in–law of
Opah, a simple man. He had no understanding of who his son–in–law really
was. He wanted Matis to go into business…and he hounded him. It was the
same story with the Berditchever Rav. His father–in–law was a wealthy man
who took him for a son–in–law, but he had no understanding of his real
worth. One time his father–in–law gave him a sum of money and sent him
with a servant on a buying trip. What should he do? The Berditchever took
the money and went. They arrived at a certain town, and the Berditchever
went immediately to the Beis Medrash. The opportunity arose to buy some
good merchandise, but it meant that the Berditchever was going to have
to accompany the servant to pay for it. This going to pay for the merchandise
presented a very great test to the Berditchever. He was being tested. In
the end he said, “Leave me alone! Take the money for yourself and leave
me alone!” The Berditchever gave all of the money to the trusted servant.
He went on a buying trip, and came home without any goods, and without
When he arrived back home,
his father–in–law gave it to him… He said, “Get out of this house.” The
Berditchever had caused him to lose a vast sum of money. He didn’t want
to tell his father–in–law that he had undergone a trial. He didn’t want
to tell him that. So he said that he lost the money. If he were to say
that he had undergone a test, his father–in–law would surely deride him.
Afterward, the servant that
had taken the money wound up in deep trouble with the government. He traveled
to the Rebbe, Reb Elimelech (of Lizhensk). Reb Elimelech nodded his head
and said, “Give the money back to Levi Yitzchak! You took his money from
him! Give the money back, and your problem will go away!” It only became
clear then that he had undergone a test, and it became known just who he
was… In the meantime, though, his father–in–law had no idea what kind of
a son–in–law he had. He even threw him out of the house. He made him such
The main thing is, that Hashem
will help us so that we will travel on Rebbe Nachman’s path with a feeling
of freshness. He will help us to keep on wanting good things—and as long
as we continue to want, then it is guaranteed that everything will turn
out for the best!!!
They Were Terrified by the Prospect of Fame!
Reb Nosson once said to Reb
Shimshon Barsky, our Reb Shimshon Barsky’s grandfather, “The keys to children
are not with me, nor are they with others. It’s just that if you will stay
around here among us…you will surely manage to catch the point in time
when it is possible for you to be helped!” And that’s the way it was. Afterward,
he had such children, such sons–in–law—Reb Mecheleh and Reb Hertz.
Reb Mecheleh was so attached
to G–d. He used to go to the mikveh every day, even when he was
an old man. It would take him an hour, sometimes even two hours. He would
never let anyone help him. He didn’t want any help. It would sometimes
take him a long time to find his sleeve. People tried to help him, “No,
no, I don’t want any help!” Then he would spend a long time looking for
his sleeve! He was so careful to avoid any kind of publicity. “You want
to make me into some kind of Rebbeleh? You want to help me find my sleeve?
I’ll find it myself, I’ll find it myself!” Absolutely terrified of fame!
He also used to go to the
on Friday, before the morning prayers. People generally go later in the
day, to honor the Shabbos, but he would also go in the morning before the
prayers. His children came to the mikveh and said to him, “Grandfather,
won’t you be going to the mikveh anyway later on in the day?” He
would answer, “The yarmulke doesn’t sit well on my head without going to
the mikveh! The yarmulke doesn’t sit right if I have not been to
I remember the first time
I came to his home, he had Reb Nosson’s cane and he showed it to me. Someone
who was staying at Reb Mecheleh’s house told me, “Reb Mecheleh opened up
a closet and took out a white sheet…a clean white sheet…and made up the
bed for me. He spread it out and made the bed with a white sheet.” Ah,
that an elderly Jew should make such an effort to straighten and arrange
the bed just so… His children wanted to help him but he would not allow
them. “I’ll make the bed myself! I’ll make the bed myself!” Ah, an elderly
Jew like that.
He always used to say, “Rabbeinu
wrote in “The Burned Book” about the greatness of a guest, and how important
it is to make the bed for the guest! He spoke about the greatness of hosting
guests and making the bed for the guest.” That was why he had special white
sheets that were set-aside in a closet. No one in the family was allowed
to use them—they were only for a guest! The joy that he felt when a guest
would come to him was incredible!
He would bake absolutely enormous
loaves of bread. He could bake a challah that was the size of half a table!
People would ask him, “What are you making such big loaves for?” He would
answer, “When a guest comes and he is hungry, and you only bake small rolls,
if he eats a lot it stands out. It’s obvious, and then he feels ashamed.
He won’t eat as much as he needs because people will see how hungry he
is! But if you make a huge loaf, he can eat a lot and no one will notice
a thing! After all, it’s such a big loaf…” He always had such innovations
ready for every situation!
I remember, when I once went
to stay with Neshka, may he rest in peace. He was Reb Dovid Tzvi’s grandson.
His father was Reb Shachne. He was ill. I entered his home, and the children
suddenly became so happy. I said to them, “What are you so happy about?”
They answered, “Now we’ll also have something to eat!” When a guest comes,
it can’t be that Father won’t also bring out something for us to eat… He
was, all in all, such a poor man. But when a guest comes, you could see
how everyone would benefit, everyone would get something to eat. “Now we’ll
also have something to eat!” Gevaldt! Gevaldt! Who are we talking about
here? We’re talking about Tzaddikim!
It’s Worthwhile to Travel from the Four Corner of the Earth Just to See
How a Jew Stands Before Kol Nidrei at Rabbeinu’s Gravesite.
Neshka (Reb Nachman of Tulchin),
may he rest in peace, told me that he saw how his grandfather and his uncle
used to sit at the table for the festive meal on Rosh Chodesh, and it was
really something. But once, he was in Nemirov on Rosh Chodesh, and he stopped
in at Reb Nachman Nemirover. He was a businessman, and he was some sort
of a relative of Neshka’s. “What I saw at his house, I never saw at my
grandfather’s or my uncle’s…” Reb Nachman Nemirover came home from the
office, he was an accountant in a lumber business, and he came home and
put on Shabbos clothes! And it was Shabbos in the house! There were even
Reb Abba Lishensky once said
to me, “I was amazed that a Jew, an accountant, could pray so sweetly.”
Reb Nachman Nemirover’s Mussaf was impossible to describe. He prayed
with such attachment to G–d. And when he would break out crying, it was
so unbelievably moving! Abba said, “How can it be that a Jew who works
as an accountant can pray with such sweetness? One time I stayed with him
for Shabbos. What a Shabbos I saw! Such an Eishes Chayil, such an
Bi’Shvachin…his face just radiated light as he sat at the table. It
is certainly possible that he could pray the way that he did!”
This Reb Nachman, the chazzan,
had been a soldier way before the First World War. He never even so much
as tasted the army’s food. That is incredible—he was one in a thousand...
When Pesach came, the government would grant a furlough to all of the Jewish
soldiers so that they could eat separately. He was a soldier in Zhitomir,
near Berdichev. He approached a Jew there in the Beis Medrash in the synagogue,
and said, “Listen, I’m a grandson of Reb Nosson! Find me a really kosher
home where I can eat.” Hundreds of soldiers had come into Zhitomir, and
the city had already provided meals for all of them for Pesach. People
grabbed up the soldiers as guests, everyone had a place to eat. Reb Nachman
then approached someone and said, “I’m Reb Nosson’s grandson! I’m asking
you to find me a really kosher home where I can eat.”
This man in the Beis Medrash
brought Reb Nachman to the home of a wealthy man. Reb Nachman went into
the house and saw two challos sitting on the table! He stood there staring,
“What is this? You set up two challos for the Seder?” The family
saw him standing and staring, so they said, “In this house, we eat only
matzo. Those challos are just made out of eggs and sugar!” This was
a wealthy man, and the ersatz challos were just there to look pretty. “Don’t
worry.” As usual, Reb Nachman conducted the Seder. He was a great
singer, and he did it in such a way that the family was amazed. They had
never seen a Seder like it.
From that Pesach, from that
the family really was completely amazed. They saw in him a totally different
kind of person from that which they were used to, they saw a Tzaddik.
They began to send him food, and he always ate from what they sent. They
always sent him lunch. I believe that this wealthy man later on became
a Breslover Chassid, and that some of his children used to travel to Uman
for Rosh Hashanah. The family kept on sending food to Reb Nachman Nemirover
every day, for years. Ah, this was the kind of people we used to have among
What can I say? I knew him
well, he was a unique individual. His heart was broken for Hashem… During
the Ten Days of Repentance he used to stay in Uman, through Yom HaKippurim.
He used to fast until midday every day, and spend the whole day at Rabbeinu’s
grave. During the Ten Days of Repentance, you don’t eat until midday. He
used to go to the gravesite after morning prayers, and not move from there.
I used to love to go with him. His Tikkun Haklali and his prayers were
really something to hear…and the way he said the Tehillim for the day,
and the Sha’arei Tzion…his prayers and his hisbodedus. He would
do hisbodedus for hours there. He would take his heart apart at
Rabbeinu’s grave. “Master of the Universe! I come to You with such a heart?!
With such a heart, I come before You?!” He usually went to the Rebbe’s
gravesite Erev Yom HaKippurim, before Kol Nidrei. It didn’t take much time.
Somebody once said, “It’s worthwhile to travel from the four corners of
the earth to see how a Jew stands before Rabbeinu just before Kol Nidrei.”
The main thing to learn out
from what we have said is that there is a lot of good in Rabbeinu’s path—you
just have to be stubborn. “I want, I want!” One must not push the time,
but he should also never stop wanting!!!
were able to stand at Rabbeinu’s grave for seven
eight hours, crying out from the depths of their hearts.
I heard from Rav Avraham b’Rav
Nachman, that Rav Nachman Tulchiner was once walking around in a torn garment.
Reb Nosson said to him, “Reb Nachman, fix your garment.” Reb Nachman said
to him, “I’ll go to the Rebbe’s grave first, and I’ll fix my garment afterward.”
Reb Nosson said, “No! Fix it first! If you go around with a torn garment,
you aren’t obeying Rabbeinu! Rabbeinu didn’t approve of walking around
in torn clothing! He didn’t approve of going around with ostentatious clothes,
but he didn’t approve of going around with torn clothing either. Certainly,
you can’t go before Rabbeinu that way!”
Previously, the Russians were
the heretics. May their heresy be blotted out, may it be uprooted from
the world. But now, even those that oppose the Russians have their own
heresy. The whole world is full of heresy, simply filled with it! For us,
there is only the Rebbe. That is all there is. All the peoples of the world
are terrifying, frightening…even those who oppose the atheistic Russians.
Even they have their heresy, the entire world. Come and examine all of
the nations of the world, all of the modern world, to see who mentions
G–d’s Name. By them, it is shameful to mention the Name of G–d. But the
Rebbe is faith. That is all that we have—the Rebbe. This is the only true
light, and this light will light up the entire world.
There was a certain Reb Nosson
who used to always be at Rabbeinu’s grave [over Rosh Hashanah]. He would
go for Chatzos and would stay until Zechor Bris [the Slichos,
supplicational prayers said before Shacharis, the morning prayer on Erev
Rosh Hashanah]. For Zechor Bris, he would come down from the gravesite.
After the prayers, he would go right back and would stay until Minchah.
He would run to the mikveh, and they would already be praying Minchah
in the synagogue. There were people that had such hearts for Hashem…such
hearts. They could stand at Rabbeinu’s gravesite for seven or eight hours
at a time, screaming from the depths of their hearts! Screaming and screaming!
Gevaldt! This is the heart of the world! This is truly the heart of the
world. These are the people referred to in the verse, “Yisrael, in whom
I glorify Myself.”
my eyes even for an instant will also help me when it comes to praying…
There is a total
of the covenant, but there is also such a thing as guarding the covenant
for just an instant...
“Through rectifying the covenant,
which is the aspect of a bow, one can shoot the arrows, which represent
prayer. They are the eighteen blessings of [the Shemonah Esrei]
prayer which are three ‘vavs’ [three times six, the gematria
of vav is six], which are like arrows.” (Likutei Moharan
II:83:1) Arrows without a bow?! What use are arrows without a bow? The
bow needs the arrows and the arrows need the bow! This applies to everyone.
Only through the bow is it possible to direct the arrows—the prayer. We
must know that we have to guard the organs and limbs that are listed here
in this lesson—the mouth, the eyes and the ears and also the hands, which
Rabbeinu also includes. The more we guard them, the more will the prayer
sit properly in the bow.
“And their place is
in the covenant. This is the aspect of, ‘And my covenant is faithful to
him’ (Tehillim 89).” Where is this place—the place of the arrows?
Where must we place the arrows? In the covenant! “And my covenant
is faithful to him,” faith is prayer. “And their place is in the covenant.”
This is the idea of the bow. We have to beg Hashem every day that we should
be able to guard our eyes, guard our mouths. We must beg Hashem that we
shouldn’t hear any bad words, the bad words of the heretics. This is the
meaning of what Rabbeinu says, “And their place is in the covenant.” The
place of the arrows—of the prayers—is the covenant! The more a person guards
the covenant, his prayer is altogether different. This is perfection—to
have a bow with arrows. Arrows without a bow [i.e. prayers without personal
sanctity] are no use whatsoever!
“And then begins the blossoming
of the horn of Moshiach.” So when we merit such prayers, everyone merits
a portion in the beginning of the blossoming of the horn of the Moshiach…Rav
Avraham the son of Rav Nachman said in the name of Reb Nosson: “The Holy
One will certainly finish, for He always finishes! Rabbeinu will
also finish what he started! But how? He will finish also through me! I
will also have a part in the completion!
What we learn from this is
that which Rabbeinu said, “The main weapon of the Moshiach is prayer.”
(Likutei Moharan I:2) But he needs us to supply him with this weapon…
He will wage war, we cannot wage war, but we can help by giving him the
weapon. Then he will win all the wars… And he [the Moshiach] says, “With
these weapons I am going to conquer the entire world…” From where does
he get the weapons? From us, we have to give him the weapons!
The more we pray, the more
we make certain to spend time in hisbodedus every day, that is how
we give him the weapons. We have a share in the blossoming of the horn
of the Moshiach, who will conquer the entire world with these weapons,
with the prayers that we give him! Regarding this Rabbi Nosson said: “The
Holy One will certainly finish!” But how? He will also finish through
me…” G–d forbid that I should go against him! On the contrary, I
should also help him [Moshiach] in this. For a man who guards his eyes,
his mouth, his ears and his mind—his prayer is naturally altogether different.
Then he helps Moshiach to conquer, he gives him the weapons!
Rabbeinu said: “I was above
[in the heavens], and I saw how they were all running, running… ‘An avreich
is praying.’ I drew close and lifted up his prayer shawl, and I saw that
it was my Naphtali, this was actually my Naphtali…” We see from here that
the student of Rabbeinu, Reb Naphtali… “Above they ran… above they ran…
in heaven… ‘An avreich is praying!’ It made a noise in heaven—‘A
Torah scholar is praying!’ I drew close and lifted up his prayer
shawl and saw that this was actually my Naphtali…” And what is the explanation?
It is because Rabbeinu was a bow, and Rabbi Naphtali supplied the arrows.
A bow with arrows is something totally different. This is a different type
of perfection, when the arrows are in the bow…
Everyone must apply himself
to see how that which Rabbeinu said, even though his words are very lofty,
relates to him. They refer to everyone according to his level. Sometimes
a challenge comes one’s way. There is a letter in which Rabbi Nosson wrote:
“The verse, ‘You will test them for an instant,’ (Iyov 7:18) was
said about you. You are [only] tested for an instant…” The Midrash says
that Yosef HaTzaddik was tested for a whole year. We, however, could not
stand to be tested for a year—even for a day is impossible. “You are tested
for an instant.”
Just one instant —one can
either use that moment to steal a glance [at a woman], or not to steal
a glance. If I didn’t glance, then I withstood the test! Similarly regarding
whether to speak or not to speak forbidden speech. The decision only takes
a moment—but still I withstood the test! Similarly whether to think or
not to think a forbidden thought—this too only takes a moment! We are tested
for an instant—but withstanding [even] such a [short] test is also considered
praiseworthy up above. According to his level it is impossible to test
him for an hour, so they only test him for an instant!
“There is a perfect guarding
of the covenant, and then there is a momentarily guarding of the covenant…
I guarded my eyes for a second—this too will help my praying… I guarded
my mouth for a moment—this will also help me in praying… And their place
is in the covenant… And then begins the blossoming of the horn of Moshiach,
in the aspect of, ‘I will sprout forth a horn (keren) for David,’
(Tehillim 132). This is the aspect of, ‘Rays (karnayim) issue
from his hand.’ (Habakkuk 3:4)” (Likutei Moharan II:83) “Rays
issue from his hand”—this refers to prayer. “Ray” (keren)
implies that which shines, light. “The skin of his face shone with rays
of light.” (Shemos 34:29) The “rays” are from “his hand”—all the
light comes from his “hand.” “His hand” also refers to guarding the covenant,
and that is what causes the blossoming, the blossoming of the horn of Moshiach.
“And there are three prayers,
for Moshiach is included within the Patriarchs. Meaning that Moshiach,
who represents the speech with which we pray, is the aspect of ‘He who
makes the mute speak (mei’siach).’ He is made of fire, water, and
air.” Prayer has three forces—the holy Patriarchs. Avraham Avinu represents
water, he is aligned with the waters of Chessed. Yitzchak represents
fire. Yaakov represents air. This is the joining together of fire and water.
Prayer includes all three elements. And the righteous Moshiach is a composite
of all three Patriarchs. That is why his prayer is complete. That is why
the blossoming of the horn of Moshiach is through prayer, for Moshiach
is a composite of these three elements— of the three holy Patriarchs.
“And then he becomes a free
man.” Then he becomes a free man. Rabbeinu says there: “Mental composure
is attained through joy and liberty”. A man is called free when he
has no subjection or servitude upon him other than Hashem’s service alone!
If he has desires: “I need this… and I need that…” Then he is not yet a
free man! The Tzaddikim had such holy minds, they were dedicated
completely to Hashem. Then a person is a free man—that is when he is called
a free man. He has no other servitude, he is enslaved only to Hashem!
That is when he is called a free man!
“Then he is made a free man.
Meaning, he achieves the holiness of Shabbos, when work is forbidden.”
Then he achieves the holiness of Shabbos, so that even in the middle of
the week, he is holding on such a level where work is forbidden. Then this
attains the holiness of Shabbos. Work is forbidden on Shabbos—he is holding
on such a level of liberty, his mind is so liberated. He is such a free
man—no one enslaves him. It is literally as though he is forbidden to work.
He is enslaved to Hashem alone.
“Shabbos is a conjunction
of the letter ‘shin’ and the word ‘bas’ (daughter).
The three heads of the ‘shin’ represent the three colors of the
eye [the red, the iris, and the white]: fire, air and water. The
‘bas’ (bas ayin—pupil of the eye) represents prayer which
are the blessings. This is the aspect of, ‘He had a daughter and Bakol
was her name,’ (Bava Basra 16). This is the aspect of, ‘And Hashem
blessed Avraham with everything (Bakol).’ (Bereishis 24)”
Rabbeinu began the last lesson (Likutei Moharan II:78), on Shabbos
Nachamu, by saying, “Why do you travel to me”? On the Shavuos before that
final Shabbos Nachamu, Rabbeinu did not give a lesson. “You see that I
don’t give over a lesson, so why do you travel to me? I don’t know anything…”
Rabbeinu swore on the holy Shabbos that he did not know anything at all!
What does “on the holy Shabbos”
mean? Rabbeinu says here, that Shabbos is referring to the holiness of
the Shabbos, where one attains the ultimate level of knowledge—of the knowing
nothing that transcends knowledge. One reaches that level when he is holding
on [the level] of the holiness of Shabbos. This is what Rabbeinu meant
then. “I swear by the holiness of Shabbos that I do not know anything.”
This is the ultimate level of knowledge, when a Tzaddik attains
the knowledge of Shabbos. There is the place of knowing nothing, of “mah”
(what, or nothing). That is where they show him that he knows nothing.
We see from here the greatness of Rabbeinu… It is known that this lesson
is one of the ones that was in the manuscript that Rabbeinu burned (the
Burnt Book). Rabbeinu took this lesson from there.
When he attains the level
of Shabbos, he is always in the state of Shabbos. It is brought in the
holy Zohar that the company said to Rabbi Shimon, “You are the Shabbos
of all the days.” There were ten Tzaddikim in the Idra, ten students
including Rabbi Shimon. Three passed away, and only seven remained. This
is discussed in the Idra Rabbah, Parshas Naso. Rabbi Shimon said to them,
“We are seven, and parallel the seven days of the week.” Rabbi Abba said
to him, “Yes, but you are the Shabbos within the week! We are indeed the
seven days! But you are the Shabbos.” Rabbi Abba said to Rabbi Shimon,
“You are the Shabbos of all the days. You are the Shabbos day. Together
we are seven, but we have to know that there is a Shabbos. The entire week
receives its vitality from the Shabbos.” We have to thank Hashem that we
were brought close to such a Rebbe, one who is holding on the level of
Shabbos. A Rebbe who swore on the holy Shabbos that he knows nothing…
We are going to skip a few
paragraphs ahead. After all, it is soon going to be Shabbos HaGadol. Rabbeinu
speaks about the eyes here. He explains: “The eve (literally, light) of
the fourteenth”—fourteen refers to the eyes. There are seven membranes
of the eye, and the two eyes make fourteen membranes altogether. “Light”—the
light of the eyes. When the eyes are illuminated, “ then one can check
for the chometz.” Then one can get rid of the chometz, the
that entices a person saying, “This is nice, and this…” Gevaldt! Guarding
the covenant really includes everything else within it, but the main thing
is to guard one’s eyes… “The eve / light of the fourteenth”—the light of
the eyes. With this light of the eyes, which is two times the seven membranes
of the eye, one checks for the chometz. With it, it is possible
to drive out and destroy the leaven in the dough.
Gevaldt! We have to see to
it that we at the very least beg Hashem every day, “Help me to guard my
eyes.” We have to ask for other things also, but we especially have to
beg for help in guarding our eyes. Rabbeinu says here: “The light of the
eyes” is the “light of the fourteenth” with which we check for the chometz.
Checking means searching. I have to search for the chometz—it is
Rabbeinu says in Sefer HaMiddos
(Ga’avah 19): “There is a kind of conceit that hides within a person,
and he doesn’t understand that it is conceit… Hashem sends him dreams,
and it becomes known to him through the dreams.” There is such a thing
as that which hides, and I must search for it. I know that it is hiding,
the evil impulse is hiding, he wants to grab me… Rabbeinu says that you
need to have the light of the eyes. When you guard your eyes, you can check,
you can search for the chometz even though it is hiding. This is
a fundamental aspect of Rabbeinu’s path.
It is really brought in relation
to Moshiach, to David HaMelech who is the righteous Moshiach. Rabbeinu
is, after all, speaking about Moshiach in this lesson. The verse actually
says of him, “With fine eyes and good vision.” (Shmuel I:16) When
Reb Nochum Tchernobler saw Rabbeinu he said, “’fine eyes’—he has lovely
The summertime is coming and
the challenge of guarding one’s eyes becomes more difficult, even at home.
Wherever you go you must know… If I have this light, then I’ll have these
eyes, I’ll have such a degree of light that I will be able to search out
the chometz with it. The chometz will hide from me, but I
will find it. That is why the word “checking” is so appropriate here—just
as one searches for the chometz in the cracks and crevices…
The mitzvah is meant
to be fulfilled on Erev Pesach, but the main thing is (and this is the
sign that I’ve really fulfilled the mitzvah) that the light of the
eyes should accompany me all year long. I have to be checking for the chometz
all year long, not to let it fool me, not to let it hide itself from me.
Hashem should help us that we will come to truly fulfill that which we
learn, that we should, “preach properly, and practice properly.”
© 2001 Breslov Institutions, Yeshivat "Shuvu Bonim",
All Rights Reserved.