Monday, February 13, 2017

BRI Event for Women - February 26

Dear Women,

You asked and we listened!

You’re invited to a special Breslov event just for women on Sunday, February 26th at the JCC of Manhattan.

Azamra: Hearing the Song of Your Soul
An Afternoon of Self-Discovery with Healing Chassidic Meditation, Art and Music

Date: Sunday, February 26th  Time: 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Place: The JCC of Manhattan at 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th St, New York City 

Come for a creative afternoon of Chassidic workshops based on the joyful wisdom of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Experience the power of Chassidic meditation, art, and song. Uncover unique healing insights you can build on. Gain self-knowledge. Take home doable ideas for a personal spiritual practice that will work in your life.

Save money and reserve online now.

Online registration is $40 per person. Price at the door will be $50.

Beginners through advanced participants are welcome. Kosher snacks served.

Workshops will be led by popular Breslov teachers including:

Chaya Rivka Zwolinski, of the Breslov Research Institute and BreslovCampus.org, is a teacher, coach, and writer. She’s dedicated to helping women connect with their individual soul-potential and living with more joy. She’s  the co-author of Therapy Revolution (HCI) and The Parent-Child Dance (Feldheim), and contributes to PsychCentral.com and BreslovWoman.org.


Atara Grenadir, art therapist and chair of the art department at Touro College, known for her contemplative, spiritually charged paintings. Atara helps students understand more about themselves through the use of line and color. She is the author of a cookbook, Breslov Naturally, which is illustrated with her paintings.

Fraidy Katz, Experienced educator and head of musical productions for children and adults. Fraidy teaches a traditional challah-baking workshop. She will be singing and teaching us heartwarming Chassidic songs and explaining their deeper meaning.

Co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan & Breslov Research Institute

For questions, please email or call 732-534-7263.

Rabbi Ozer Bergman in NYC - February 16

Please join us for an informal discussion by 
Rabbi Ozer Bergman 
(noted author and lecturer from Jerusalem)
 
as he shares with us the warmth and wisdom 
of Rebbe Nachman and Breslov chasidus
 
and grapples the question of what to do 
when prayers seemingly go unanswered.
 
 
"Davening for a Shidduch: 
Already a Decade (or Two) Behind Schedule -- Now What?"
 
 
309 West 89th Street, Manhattan
(Congregation Ahavas Chesed)
 
Thursday evening, February 16th 
7:45pm
 
Light Refreshments
 
Suggested donation: $10
 
Rabbi Bergman is the author of the ever popular guide to doing hitbodedut,
"Where Earth and Heaven Kiss", a translator for Breslov Research Institute and teaches privately.
 
For questions or more information, contact:
Andy Bloom (purevanill@aol.com)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Mysterious Guest

Painting by Francisco de Goya

The Mysterious Guest
Chayey Moharan, Sippurim Chadashim (“New Stories”) 85
Translation and Commentary by Dovid Sears

On the first day of Chanukah 5569/1808, in the evening after lighting the first candle. Rabbi Nachman told this story:

A visitor came into a house and asked the head of the house, “From where do you obtain a living?”

"I don’t have a steady livelihood at home,” his host replied. “However, the world provides me with what I need to live.”

The guest asked him, “What do you study?”

The host answered him.

They continued conversing, until soon they were engaged in a true heart to heart discussion. 

The host began to feel an intense longing and yearning to reach a certain level of holiness. “I will teach you,” said the guest.

The host was surprised. He began to wonder, “Maybe this isn’t a human being at all!” However, he looked again, and saw that the guest was talking to him like a human being.

Immediately afterward he had a strong sense of faith, and he resolved to believe in him. He started calling him “my teacher,” and said to him, “First of all, I would like to ask you to teach me how to conduct myself with due respect toward you. Not, I scarcely need add, that I could actually detract from your true honor, God forbid; but even so, it is hard for human beings to be as meticulous as they should be in these matters. That is why I would like you to teach me how to behave with due respect.”

“For the moment, I don’t have the time,” he replied. “Another time I will come and teach you this. Right now I must go away from here.”

“I also need to learn from you about this,” said the host. “How far must I go when I accompany you on your way, as a host is obligated to do when his guests depart?”[I]

“Until just beyond the entrance,” he replied.

The host began to think to himself, “How can I go out with him? Right now I am with him among other people. But if I go out with him alone—who knows who he is?” He questioned him and then told him, “I’m afraid to go out with you.”

“If I can learn with you like this,” the visitor retorted, “then now, too, if I wanted to do something to you, who would stop me?”

The host went with him beyond the entrance. All of a sudden, the visitor seized him and began to fly with him!

It was cold for the host, so the other took a garment and gave it to him. “Take this garment,” he said, “and it will be good for you. You will have food and drink and everything will be good, and you will live in your house.” And he flew with him.

In the midst of this, the host gazed, and suddenly he was in his house. He couldn’t believe his own eyes that he was in his house; but he looked, and there he was, speaking with people, and eating and drinking in a normal manner. Then he looked back, and lo and behold, he was flying, as before. Then he looked back and he was in his house. This went on for a long time.

After awhile, he flew down to a valley between two mountains. There, he found a book which contained various combinations of letters: alef, zayin, chet, which is dalet, etc. Vessels were depicted in this book, and inside the vessels were letters. Moreover, inside the vessels were the letters of the vessels, by which one could create such vessels. He felt an intense desire to study this book. 

In the midst of this, he gazed, and lo and behold, he was in his house. Then he gazed, and there he was, in the valley.

He made up his mind to climb the mountain; perhaps he would find an inhabited place there. When he came to the mountain, he saw a golden tree with golden branches standing there. Hanging from the branches were vessels like those depicted in the book, and within those vessels were other vessels by which one could create such vessels. He wanted to take some of the vessels away from there, but he was unable to do so, for they were inextricably entangled in the branches.

In the midst of this, he gazed - and lo and behold, he was in his house. This was most amazing to him. How was this possible? How could he be both here and there at the same time? He wanted to discuss this with other human beings, but how could one speak about such an astounding phenomenon to other people, something that they surely would not believe?

In the midst of this, he looked out the window and saw the same guest. He started begging him to come to him. However, the guest replied, “I don’t have time, because I am on my way to you!”

“This itself is a wonder in my eyes!” he cried. “Look, I am right here—what do you mean, that you are on your way to me?”

The guest explained, “The moment you decided to come with me, to accompany me beyond the doorway, I took the neshamah (higher soul) from you and gave you a garment from the Lower Garden of Eden.[II] The nefesh (vital spirit) and ru’ach (lower soul) remain with you. Therefore, whenever you attach your thoughts to that place, you are there, and you draw an illumination from that place to yourself. And when you return here—you are here!”

I do not know which world he is from, but this much is certain: it is a world of good.

So far, it is not over, it is not finished.

Commentary

Before we start skating on thin ice, it must be said that there are no classical commentaries on this story in the Breslov literature. Therefore, all of our remarks are speculative. No doubt, the story lends itself to many other lines of interpretation, as well.

Guest and Host/Ohr Makif and Ohr Pnimi

The “mysterious guest” has at least two levels of meaning: most obviously, he represents the tzaddik. He also represents the ohr makif, or “encompassing light,” which in general alludes to the sefirah of Binah.[III] This is the level of perception or being that is perpetually beyond one’s grasp - for as soon as it is internalized, another ohr makif takes its place.[IV] Thus, Binah is in a constant state of flux.

The Baal Shem Tov relates Binah to orei’ach, the Hebrew word for guest.[V} Orei’ach (spelled alef-vav-resh-chet) can be divided into ohr-chet, meaning “light of eight.” This alludes to the eighth sefirah in ascending order, which is Binah. Whenever one shows hospitality, this creates a channel for internalizing the light of Binah:

The Baal Shem Tov, taught: When a guest arrives, he brings his host Torah insights - for the Torah insights the host receives from Above correspond to the nature of his guests.[VI]

The guest is a vehicle for the ohr makif. However, every level of perception is an ohr makif in relation to the level below it, which is called ohr pnimi, the “inner” or “manifest light.” The ohr pnimi corresponds to the host.

Sixteenth century kabbalist Rabbi Chaim Vital explains that the light of the Chanukah lamp represents Binah, the transcendent level, as it illuminates Z’er Anpin, or “Small Face,” the structure comprising the six lower sefirot that animate the natural order.[VII] In less technical language, a ray of the limitless “shines” into the finite. Rebbe Nachman’s allegory of the guest and the head of the house alludes to this kabbalistic model, as well.

“From where do you obtain a living?”

The guest inquires as to the host’s source of livelihood. This is because the tzaddik is the parnes, provider of sustenance. Thus the guest, who represents the tzaddik, is entitled to ask his host this question.

Only two biblical figures are explicitly called “tzaddik”: Noah and Joseph. The Midrash explains that both deserved this title because they provided others with food.[VIII] In Noah’s case, he fed the entire world in his ark until the floodwaters subsided; in Joseph’s case, he provided grain to all Egypt and surrounding lands. Similarly, the Talmudic tzaddik Rabbi Chanina confered his great spiritual merit upon the world so that all creatures might receive sustenance, even those deemed completely unworthy.[IX]

Rebbe Nachman deals with this concept of the tzaddik as provider in many teachings, especially Likutey Moharan II, 7 (“For a Compassionate One Shall Lead Them”). There he states that the world receives livelihood by virtue of the tzaddik, albeit through the fusion of two levels inherent within him. The higher is represented by the tzaddik’s “son”; the lower is represented by the tzaddik’s “disciple.” However, these terms are mean to be taken more symbolically than literally. The perception of the son is expressed by the Ministering Angels who ask: “Where is the place of His glory?”—indicating the transcendent level, the aspect of “not knowing,” the ohr makif/encompassing light. The perception of the disciple is related to the antithetical declaration, “His glory fills the world” - indicating the immanent level, “knowledge of God,” the ohr pnimi/inner light.

In truth, these two perceptions are one, and each completes the other. Those in the category of the “son,” who have attained the higher level (“Where is the place of His glory?”), must be protected from total self-nullification in God’s transcendent aspect. They are like holy moths that would readily self-destruct in their desire to reach the light. The knowledge that “His glory fills the world” grounds them, creating the possibility of a perception of God. Thus, they may experience the mystic’s awe before the infinite mystery of the Divine.

Those in the category of the “disciple,” who occupy the lower level (“His glory fills the world”), are protected from total self-nullification in God’s immanence. They are like people who immerse in the mikveh (ritual bath) and stay under the water too long. These “disciples,” too, must experience awe of God, because the trace of wonderment they are granted—the admixture of “Where is the place of His glory?”—creates the existential distance needed for their perception. Otherwise, everything becomes “white on white,” lacking all contrast.

Thus, process and spiritual growth are made possible through this fusion of the perceptions of God’s transcendence and immanence; and livelihood is drawn forth to the world from the tzaddik who has grasped the secret of this dualism, and as such, serves as the channel for God’s will to continually create and sustain the world. This is the concept of “tzaddik yesod olam . . . the tzaddik is the foundation of the universe” (Proverbs 10:25).

“The world provides me with what I need to live”

Because the ohr pnimi derives its life force from the ohr makif, the host actually receives his livelihood from the guest. However, the host remains unaware of this. All he knows is that somehow his needs are fulfilled. Thus, he replies, “I don’t have a steady livelihood at home, but the world provides me with what I need to live.”

This answer suggests that either the host lacks initiative, or he fails to appreciate the true source of his sustenance, or both. In Likutey Moharan II, 7, the lesson cited above, Rebbe Nachman says that to be a provider, one must have a certain malkhut, a certain authority (although he seems to use the term in more than one sense), adding “one can’t be a shlimazal”—an incompetant person, or a “loser.” If so, what is our host? What is he telling us about himself with his vague reply? At this point in his life, at least, he seems to be a passive sort of fellow. 

This alludes to the paradigm of how the world was sustained prior to the Giving of the Torah. Rebbe Nachman states in Likutey Moharan II, 78, that before the Torah was given, humanity was involved only in derech eretz, mundane pursuits. From this, the Midrash infers, “Derekh eretz (which can also mean simple human decency) preceded the Torah.”[X] Since the Torah is the source of life—as it is written, “For they [i.e., the commandments] are your life and the length of your days” (Deuteronomy 30:20)— from whence did the world derive its sustenance? The answer: from God’s gratuitous kindness.

The Talmud states that the twenty-six generations prior to the Giving of the Torah correspond to the twenty-six repetitions of the refrain “for His kindness is everlasting” in Psalm 136.[XI] However, the Torah certainly existed prior to its revelation; indeed, the Midrash tells us that all things came into being through the Torah, which preceded creation.[XII] The Torah was merely hidden. And where was it hidden? In the Ten Creative Statements recounted in the first chapter of Genesis, with which God continually animates the universe.[XIII] Thus, our host says that he is sustained “by the world,” that is, by the Torah that is hidden in the world, although he does not yet perceive it.

In this lesson, Rebbe Nachman also identifies the tzaddik as the channel for sustenance. He is the holy “prustok” (peasant or simpleton) who at times must desist from studying or fulfilling the commandments of the Torah in order to engage in worldly activities. At such times he receives vitality from what the Midrash calls the “Treasury of Unearned Gifts,” the gratuitous kindness with which God sustained the world prior to the Giving of the Torah.[xiv] Then he, in turn, can confer this gratuitous kindness upon the true simpletons—the rest of us in our present unenlightened state, enabling us to survive until we, too, become worthy of receiving life directly from the holiness of the Torah.

Perhaps the guest in our Chanukah story is the holy prustok, and the host represents the spiritually benighted masses that unwittingly receive life and sustenance through him. This is what gives the guest the “right” to inquire as to his host’s means of livelihood. The guest wants him to realize that he is being sustained by the tzaddik who is privy to God’s Treasury of Unearned Gifts.

“What do you study?”
Torah study, too, is the guest’s business, inasmuch as it reflects the influence of Binah/Understanding. The first letter of the Written Torah is the bet of Bereshit (“In the Beginning”); the last letter is the lamed of Yisrael (“Israel”). Together, they spell lev (heart), which the Zohar designates as the seat of Binah/Understanding.[xv]

A heart-to-heart discussion
It is said: “Words that come from the heart, enter the heart.”[xvi] Because the guest/tzaddik personifies the heart, he can reach the heart of the other. He channels the ohr makif into the heart of the host, who reciprocates by expressing his longing for greater levels of illumination. This is one of the main benefits of our attachment to tzaddikim.

Rebbe Nachman once observed, “I have three types of followers: those who come for my shirayim (leftovers);[xvii] those who come to hear my Torah teachings; and those who are ‘baked’ in my heart.”[xviii] Of course, every aspiring follower wants to be in the last category. But how can this be accomplished? Say the Breslover Chasidim, “When the Rebbe is ‘baked’ in our hearts!” This is implied by the “heart-to-heart discussion” in our story.

The host began to feel an intense longing and yearning to reach a certain level of holiness

This arousal is due to influence of the guest, who has put the host in touch with the deepest will of the heart: longing and yearning for the holy.

Click here to read the whole article.




[i] Sota 46b. Tanna D’vei Eliyahu Zuta 16:43 states that a disciple who escorts his Torah teacher receives divine blessing. The same text adds (16:46) that when one escorts a traveler embarking on a journey, the traveler will be protected from harm.
[ii] The Zohar (I, 138a) describes the Garden of Eden as having a higher level for the neshamah, which is the seat of thought, and a lower level for the ru’ach, the seat of the emotions.
[iii] See Rabbi Avraham ben Nachman, Kokhvei Ohr, Chokhmah u-Binah, who associates Rebbe Nachman’s teachings with the sefirah of Binah.
[iv] Likutey Moharan II, 7:6.
[v] Sefer Baal Shem Tov, Vayeira, 4, citing Toldot Yitzchak, Likutey ha-Shas.
[vi] Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudylkov, Degel Machaneh Ephraim, Vayeira.
[vii] Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Chanukah, 4. The three “upper” sefirot are Chokhmah / Wisdom, Binah / Understanding, and Da’at / Knowledge, corresponding to three aspects of the mind. The six “lower” sefirot are: Chesed/Kindness; Gevurah/Strength; Tiferet/Beauty or Harmony; Netzach/Eternity or Victory; Hod/Splendor; and Yesod/Foundation; corresponding to the two arms, torso, genitals, and two legs. The seventh and last sefirah is Malkhut / Kingship, which is a partzuf unto itself, corresponding to the feminine archetype. 
[viii] Tanchuma, Noach, 5.
[ix] Ta’anit 24b; cf. Rabbi Yisrael of Koznitz, Avodat Yisrael, Likkutim, Ta’anit.
[x] Leviticus Rabbah, 9:3.
[xi] Pesachim 118a.
[xii] Genesis Rabbah 1:2, 8:2; Zohar I, 134a, II, 161a‑b.
[xiii] This idea echoes a fundamental Chasidic teaching. On the verse, “Forever, O God, Your word stands in the heavens” (Psalms 119:89), the Baal Shem Tov explains that “Your word” alludes to the Ten Creative Statements that bring the universe and all it contains into existence. If the “letters” of these divine statements were to depart for even a moment, everything would revert to nothingness; see Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Sefer ha-Tanya, Sha’ar ha-Yichud vi-ha-Emunah, chap. 1; Rabbi Chaim of Chernowitz, Be’er Mayim Chaim, Bereshit, s.v. bereshit bara, 7.
[xiv] Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:1; Tanchuma, Va’eschanan, 3; cf. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Ohr Yakar, Vayelekh, 1:15 (p. 27), who relates the “Treasury of Unearned Gifts” to the sefirah of Keter.
[xv] Tikkuney Zohar, Hakdamah, “Patach Eliyahu.”
[xvi] A rabbinic maxim quoted by Rabbi Moshe Ibn Ezra, Shirat Yisrael, p. 156.
[xvii] Based on earlier rabbinic precedents, it is customary for a Chasidic Rebbe to distribute to his followers portions of the foods from which he has partaken. These leftovers are known as “shirayim.” This communal eating creates a spiritual bond among the participants, causing the holiness of the tzaddik to extend to all, bringing healing and blessing; see Rabbis Mordechai Scharf and Yisrael Menachem Mendel Brecher, Yesod Olam, 11:5-7, citing various sources.
[xviii] Oral tradition cited by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender, Si’ach Sarfey Kodesh, vol. II, 1-102.

29 Kislev - Reb Avraham b'Reb Nachman Chazan, zatzal

On Wednesday night Dec. 28 - Thursday, Dec. 29, which is the fifth day of Chanukah, Breslover Chassidim will commemorate the yahrtzeit of one of our greatest luminaries, Rabbi Avraham ben Reb Nachman Chazan. Public gatherings in his memory will be held in most Breslov shuls, including those in Borough Park, Flatbush, Williamsburg and Monsey. (Please check with them for details.)

The son of Reb Noson’s close follower Reb Nachman Tulchiner, Reb Avraham was a key figure in the Uman Breslov kehillah and later in Yerushalayim, and he passed on many oral traditions (some of which are found in his “Kokhvei Ohr”). Reb Avraham ben Reb Nachman was an extreme ascetic who had nothing to do with the materialism of this world. It is said that for many years he was accustomed to leave his home on Sunday to seclude himself in the Grekko forest outside of Uman with a few seforim and a few rolls of bread, and not return until the following Erev Shabbos. His “Bi'ur HaLikkutim” is one of the most profound works ever written on Likutey Moharan.

Zekhuso yagein aleinu v'al kol Yisrael!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Wheel of Transformation



Based upon the original translation of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, From “Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom” (Breslov Research Institute) Sichos HaRan, 40.

We often have discussed the prohibition against having anything at all to do with philosophical works. This includes even philosophical works of the great rabbis. Even these are not permitted, as stated in many places in our sacred literature.[1] Such things are not the “portion of Jacob,”[2] and we have nothing at all to do with them. We believe that God created and sustains the world and will renew it some day. For this we do not need philosophy. Most books on religious philosophy ask questions that appear very difficult while providing very weak answers. If one probes deeper, he can refute the answer and render it completely useless. One with true wisdom will realize that the questions themselves are nothing. They are mere “vanity and striving after wind.”[3] Therefore, it is best to avoid such books completely.

It is very surprising that many people are drawn to philosophy, yet they have no interest in such fascinating Kabbalistic works as the Zohar and the writings of the Arizal. People seek wisdom, yet ignore these sacred works filled with ideas that are “sweeter than honey and enlighten the eyes.”[4] The truth is that such people cannot endure such holy things because of their inborn evil nature.[5] They still have free choice to overcome this nature, but the fact that it is inborn makes it bitterly difficult. Fortunate is the person born in holiness.

A favorite subject of the philosophers is the order of Creation. They may ask why a star is worthy of being a star, or a constellation a constellation, while other things are consigned to a lower realm; or why lower animals are not given human faculties; or why the head is a head, and not a foot.[6]Questions like these are discussed at length in such books. But it is all “vanity and striving after wind.” For God is just and righteous,[7] and it is impossible to question His reasons.

The world is a rotating wheel.

It is like a Dreidle, a spinning top, where everything goes in cycles. Man becomes angel, and angel becomes man. Head becomes foot, and foot becomes head. Everything goes in cycles, revolving and alternating. All things interchange, one from another and one to another, elevating the low and lowering the high.[8]

All things have one root.

There are transcendental beings such as angels that have no connection with the material. There is the celestial world, whose essence is very subtle. Finally, there is the world below, which is completely physical.

All three come from different realms, but all have the same root.

All Creation is like a rotating wheel, revolving and oscillating. At one time something can be on top like a head, with another on bottom like a foot. Then the situation is reversed. Head becomes foot, and foot becomes head. Man becomes angel, and angel becomes man.

Our sages teach us that angels were cast down from heaven. They entered physical bodies and were subject to all worldly lusts.[9] Other angels were sent on missions to our world and had to clothe themselves in physical bodies.[10] We also find cases where human beings literally became angels.[11]

For the world is like a rotating wheel. It spins like a Dreidle, with all things emanating from one root. (The feet of some are also higher than the heads of others; for in the transcendental worlds, the lowest of an upper world is higher than the highest level of a lower one. However, in truth, everything revolves in cycles.)

This is why we play with a Dreidle on Chanukah.[12]

Chanukah is an aspect of the Holy Temple. The primary concept of the Temple is the revolving wheel. The Temple was in the category of “the superior below and the inferior above.” [13] God lowered His Presence into the Temple; this is “the superior below.” The Temple’s pattern was engraved on high;[14] this is “the inferior above.”

The Temple is therefore like a Dreidle, a rotating wheel, where everything revolves and is reversed.

The Temple refutes philosophical logic.

God is above every philosophical concept. It is beyond all logic that He should constrict Himself into the vessels of the Temple. “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You - how much less this Temple!”[15] Nevertheless, God brought His Presence into the Temple and thus destroyed all philosophical logic.

Philosophy cannot explain how human beings can have any influence on high. It cannot say how a mere animal can be sacrificed and ascend as a “sweet savor,”[16] giving pleasure to God. They explain that this pleasure is the fulfillment of His will, but how can we even apply the concept of desire to God?

Yet God placed His Presence in the Temple, and accepted the animal as a sweet savor.

He made the fact contradict philosophical logic.

Such logic is crushed by the Dreidle, the rotating wheel that brings the “superior below and the inferior above.

Between potential and existence stands the power of Hyle.[17] Before each thing exists in reality, it exists in potential. Coming from potential to actuality, it must first pass through the intermediate step of the Hyle. All reality thus emerges from the Hyle.

The Hyle is therefore the source of all Creation.

The three categories of Creation - transcendental, celestial, physical - all come from this one root. As they interchange, they all revolve around this root.

The letters on the Dreidle are Heh, Nun, Gimel, Shin.

Heh is Hiyuli, the Hyle.

Nun is Nivdal, the transcendental.

Gimel is Galgal, the celestial.

Shin is Shafal, the physical.

The Dreidle thus includes all Creation. It goes in cycles, alternating and revolving, one thing becoming another.

Chanukah means “dedication.” This is the dedication of the Holy Temple, “the superior below and the inferior above.” This revolving wheel is the Dreidle.

Redemption is also an alternating cycle. The superior [i.e., the mighty] are below, and the inferior [i.e., the oppressed] above, as in the Temple.

When the Jews crossed the Red Sea after the redemption from Egypt, they sang (Exodus 15:17): “You brought them and planted them on the mount of Your inheritance, the Temple which Your hands established.” Redemption was for the sake of the Temple, the revolving wheel. For when the superior are below and the inferior above, it shows that all have one root.

This is the meaning of the letters on the Dreidle: Gimel, Shin, Nun, Heh.

They are the first letters of the verse (Psalms 74:2): “You redeemed the tribe of Your inheritance, Mount Zion...”

Gimel is Go’altah -- You redeemed

Shin is Shevet -- the tribe

Nun is Nachalasecha -- of Your inheritance

Heh is Har Tzion -- Mount Zion.

This is the category of “You brought them, You planted them on the Mount of Your inheritance.” It is the aspect of the Holy Temple, symbolizing the revolving wheel, which is the main concept of redemption.

This is discussed further in the lesson delivered on the same Chanukah, on the verses (Genesis 41:1), “And it came to pass at the end…” and (Isaiah 49:10), “With compassion He will lead them.”[18] This lesson speaks of the superior below and the inferior above, as well as the fact that Chanukah is the dedication of the Temple. The “surrounding powers” discussed in this lesson are an aspect of the Dreidle, the revolving wheel, since these surrounding powers encompass and rotate. Wisdom (chochmah) here is the category of the Hyle. Study the lesson carefully, and you will understand.

After all this we can return to our original discussion. We have no need of philosophy, which is anyway strongly forbidden. We must have faith in God, that He created, sustains, and eventually will renew all worlds.

original translation © 1973 The Breslov Research Institute edited 2001 by The Breslov Center for this website

[1] See Tzaddik: A Portrait of Rabbi Nachman, sec. 407-360, esp. ff. 1, 3, 13, which list a number of Rishonim opposed to such works. The teaching above was said during Chanukah 5570 (1809); see Parpara’os LeChochmah II, 7:7.

[2] Jeremiah 10:16, 51:19.

[3] Ecclesiastes 1:14.

[4] Psalms 119:9, 11.

[5] Bereishis Rabbah 28.

[6] The vanity of such questions also is discussed by Rav Sa’adia Gaon in Emunos VeDei’os 6:4.

[7] Deuteronomy 32:4.

[8] Shemos Rabbah 31:14. Also see Shabbos 151b, Succah 5:6, Kesubos 10:6.

[9] Targum Yonasan on Genesis 6:4, Yalkut 1:44.

[10] Targum Yonasan on Genesis 18:2.

[11] Targum Yonasan on Genesis 5:24, Numbers 25:12. Cf. Zohar Chadash 20b, 21a.

[12] Chanukah celebrates the defeat of the Greeks, the embodiment of Greek philosophy.

[13] Pesachim 50b; Baba Basra 10b.

[14] Tanchuma, Pekudei, 1; Zohar I, 80b.

[15] I Kings 8:27.

[16] Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:19, etc.

[17] Ramban on Genesis 1:2; Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Drushei ABYA 1.

[18] Likutey Moharan II, 7. This lesson was also delivered on Shabbos Chanukah, 5570 (1809).

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Chanukah Customs


Compiled and annotated by Dovid Sears and Dovid Zeitlin

This list of customs especially reflects those of Reb Gedaliah Kenig and the Tzefat Breslov community, although it includes a number of general Breslov customs, as well.


Introduction:

The Rebbe states: Through the mitzvah of the Chanukah lights, we come to recognize G-d’s Glory, which is elevated and magnified throughout the world. Those who are distant from holiness are awakened to return to G-d; and we attain awe of G-d, peace in our homes, and the power of prayer. All strife and evil speech are nullified, and universal peace spreads through all of the worlds.

(Likkutei Moharan I, 14)


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He also states that through the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah lamp, we internalize holy da’as, which is the awareness of G-dliness. This is the paradigm of “good oil,” the paradigm of “remembrance.” That is, through the Chanukah lights we are privy to “remember” the World to Come -- the transcendental realm that is the point of origin of the soul and its ultimate destination -- even in the midst of this world.

(Ibid. I, 54)


The Chanukah Menorah

Reb Gedaliah Kenig was particular to use olive oil for lighting the Chanukah Menorah. This is the mitzvah min ha-muvchar, the optimal way to perform the mitzvah.


(See Rama on Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 673:1. However, wax or paraffin candles are also acceptable, as the Shulchan Arukh states.)


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Most Menorahs have an extra place for a ninth light, set apart from the rest, called the “shamash.” In addition to this, Reb Gedaliah would use a second shamash, a wax candle, to light the wicks; and when finished, he would place it in a separate holder to the side of the Menorah. This seems to reflect a hiddur in halakhah, in that adding the light of the shamash prevents one from inadvertently making mundane use of the Chanukah lights.

(See Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 673:1 regarding the custom of lighting an extra candle)


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The conclusion of the blessing before lighting the Menorah is "le-hadlik ner Chanukah," in keeping with the custom of the ARI zal. The initial letters of these three words spell the Divine Name "NaCHaL" (literally “river” or “brook”). Reb Noson homiletically relates this to the "Nachal Novea Mekor Chokhmah (A Flowing Brook, the Source of Wisdom)," a euphemism for the Rebbe. (The initial letters of this phrase from Proverbs 18:4 spell the name “Nachman.”)

(Cf. Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Chanukah, chapter 4, which explains that this Divine Name brings about an outflow of the supernal light of Binah to Ze’er Anpin; Reb Noson relates this to “Nachal Novea Mekor Chokhmah” in Likkutei Halakhos, Betzias ha-Pas 5:27; ibid. Kiddushin 2:3)

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Reb Gedaliah did not wear Shabbos clothes while lighting the Chanukah Menorah (except on Erev Shabbos Chanukah and Motza’ei Shabbos Chanukah). However, some wear a bekitcheh in honor of Chanukah.

(This seems to have been the common custom among Russian and Ukrainian Chassidim, among others; e.g. Skver-Chernobyl, Chabad, Karlin-Stolin, Boyan-Rizhin, et al. However, many Hungarian Chassidim wear a shtreimel and bekitcheh while lighting the Chanukah Menorah; see Likkutei MaHaRiCH, Seder Dinei u-Minhagei Chanukah, p. 718.)


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Reb Gedaliah would begin chanting “Ha-neiros hallalu…” after lighting the first candle, while the flame was starting to arise by itself.

(Reb Gedaliah’s custom reflects the view of the Shulchan Arukh, Magen Avraham, Elyah Rabbah, et al., and is similar to the custom followed by the communities of Karlin-Stolin, Lelov, and others; however, some begin “Haneiros hallalu” after the first candle is fully lit. Other communities, such as Chabad, Skver-Chernobyl, et al., follow the view of the Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham, et al., to begin after one finishes lighting all the candles; see Likkutei MaHaRiCH, Seder Dinei u-Minhagei Chanukah, p. 718.)


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After reciting “Haneiros hallalu,” Reb Gedaliah would gaze at the lights in silence for approximately thirty minutes.


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He would also sing Ma'oz Tzur, and recite Vi-hi Noam and Yoshev be-Seser seven times, followed by Lamenatze'ach be-Neginos, Ana be-Koach, and various zemiros. However, he always spent much time sitting and gazing at the lights in silence.

(The minhag to recite these psalms and zemiros is not unique to Breslov, but is common practice in many Chassidic communities; see Likkutei MaHaRiCH, Seder Dinei u-Minhagei Chanukah, p. 709.)

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Reb Gedaliah would often learn Likkutei Moharan I, 3 (“Akrukta”) at this time, although he sometimes chose a different Chanukah Torah.

(Other Chanukah lessons include Likkutei Moharan I, 8, 14, 17, 30, 49; II, 2, 7)

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Shabbos Chanukah was one of the three fixed times during the year when the Chassidim used to come to the Rebbe. In commemoration of this, some Breslover Chassidim today travel to Uman for Shabbos Chanukah. (However, the only time of year when it is obligatory for a Breslover Chassid to come to the Rebbe is Rosh Hashanah.)

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Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender states that on Erev Shabbos Chanukah, the Breslover Chassidim in Uman would daven Minchah with a minyan earlier than usual, prior to lighting the candles.

(Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 255. This is consistent with Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 679:1, 2; also see Mishnah Berurah, ad loc.)

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However the minhag of Yerushalayim, which is also the minhag of the Breslov community in Tzefat, is to light the Chanukah Menorah and Shabbos candles prior to Minchah, and then go to shul.

(Kitzur SheLaH, Hilchos Chanukah, s.v. “Ve-yesh le-hazhir” states that this is preferable to praying Minchah alone at home in order to maximize the time that the candles will burn. This custom probably reflects practical difficulties of going back and forth to the synagogue twice so close to Shabbos.)

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In any case, the Chanukah Menorah should be lit before the Shabbos candles, and the candles should burn until at least 30 minutes after tzes ha-kokhavim (about 90 minutes after sundown in America, and somewhat less in Eretz Yisrael).

(Mishnah Berurah on Orach Chaim 679:2)

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On Shabbos Chanukah, the psalms and zemiros usually recited and sung immediately after lighting the Menorah are sung during the evening meal.

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Shabbos Chanukah is also the main time that the Tzefat chaburah gets together to rejoice as a community, including sharing a communal Melaveh Malkah. This was the focal point of Chanukah for the talmidim of the Rebbe and Reb Noson, as well.


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On the eighth night of Chanukah, the yeshivah bochurim share a communal meal, accompanied by singing, divrei Torah, and joyous rikkudim. Rejoicing on “Zos Chanukah” is a minhag of the Baal Shem Tov, which is observed by many Chassidim. However, the Tzefat Breslov kehilllah does not do so as a whole. Rather, Shabbos Chanukah is the focal point of communal celebration.

(Sippurei Baal Shem Tov; also cf. Likkutei MaHaRiCH, Seder Dinei u-Minhagei Chanukah, p. 714)


“Chanukah Gelt”

It is customary to give extra tzedakah during the days of Chanukah. Reb Noson states that this is because during Chanukah, we are engaged in drawing the light of holy altruism into the world, as indicated by the verse “the tzaddik is beneficent and giving” (Psalms 37:21).

(Likkutei Halakhos, Birkhas ha-Mazon 3:16).

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Reb Gedaliah used to give “Chanukah gelt” to his children on the last night of Chanukah (“Zos Chanukah”).

Nittel Nacht

Like all Chassidim, Breslovers do not study Torah from sundown until Chatzos on “Nittel Nacht.” Ideally, one should go to sleep as early as possible and arise to recite Tikkun Chatzos. However, Reb Gedaliah stated that if one remains awake, it is permissible to read the Rebbe’s Sippurei Ma’asiyos.
(Heard from Rabbi Chaim Man.)


Reb Noson's Yahrtzeit

On the evening of Asarah Be-Teves, Reb Noson's yahrtzeit is commemorated by lighting a 24-hour candle and sharing a communal meal. In some Breslov communities it is customary to read the description of Reb Noson's histalkus (passing from the world) from Alim le-Terufah (Jerusalem: Toras HaNetzach 2000 ed., pp. 913-918). It is also proper to study an additional portion of Reb Noson's teachings on his yahrtzeit, and to give tzedakah in his name according to one’s means.

(In English, see Rabbi Chaim Kramer, Through Fire and Water, Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute, Chapter 48)