Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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 16, 2014

Bringing Down the Light


Excerpt from "Bringing Down the Light":
Rabbi Ephraim ben Naftoli

Tefilot HaBoker:
Prayers of the Dawn, Tefilah 4

No matter to what depths we have fallen, the tzaddikim can rescue us by "shining" down the light of Divine perception to heal our souls.


Help us, O Lord our God, help us to receive the holiness of the days of Chanukah in sanctity and purity, and with true joy. Grant us the privilege of lighting the Chanukah candles every night, as You have commanded us through our holy rabbis of blessed memory—to begin by lighting one candle on the first night, and to add another candle on each succeeding night, until the eight days of Chanukah are complete. For You have already made known to us through our holy sages that through the holiness of the Chanukah candles, we imbue our minds with perceptions of Godliness. The
tzimtzumim (constrictions) of the Infinite Light which they represent produce the spiritual illumination transmitted by all holy lights and candles. This is the paradigm of “eliciting abundant holiness and igniting flames and radiant lights.”

Shine upon us the light of the holy anointing oil, enlightening us with perceptions of Godliness in a miraculous and wondrous way. Thus may we illuminate and kindle the holy candles which contain all spiritual unifications and transmissions of Divine consciousness, so that their light will reach even people like us who occupy the nethermost rung, which corresponds to “below ten handbreadths.”


Through the tikkunim of the miracle of Chanukah, may we too experience this light through the power of the preeminent tzaddikim who transmit perceptions of the supernal light to us, even in our lowly condition. They heal us from sicknesses of the soul which threaten to overwhelm us, to the point that “our souls abhor all food, and we have reached the gates of death.” For we know in our hearts how fiercely these sicknesses attack us, and how every day our souls grow weaker, due to the multitude of our sins. However, in Your great mercy, You ennoble us with the holiness of this awesome mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah candles. Through this mitzvah, the true tzaddikim transmit the radiance of Divine perception even to such spiritual invalids as us, and they bring down this lofty light into the darkness that pervades our bodies because of our evil deeds. These tzaddikim “shine” to us, so that we might take to heart their holy words; they enliven us with their words, and in so doing, transmit the holy light of the Chanukah candles to the depths of darkness.


May we firmly believe that without a doubt, we can go forth from darkness to light with this mitzvah, in the merit of the true tzaddikim who illuminate the earth and all who dwell upon it! Fulfill in us the verses: “Even when I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I shall not fear evil, for You are with Me.” “Though I sit in darkness, God is a light unto me.”

Instill compassion into the hearts of the true tzaddikim toward the entire Jewish people and toward me, so that they will mercifully draw all of us closer. May they lower themselves to our level, shine their lights upon us, and reveal flashes of Divine perception, even to people like us, and may they succeed in healing our souls. May they fulfill the mitzvah of visiting the sick by attending our ailing souls every day! Thus they will give us,new life and revive us with spiritual delicacies, until we finally return to You in perfect teshuvah when we accept and follow all their holy advice, which is a powerful remedy for our souls.

Illuminate our souls with the wondrous radiance of Divine perception in the aspect of Chanukah! Revitalize our wisdom in holiness, and grant us life from the Light of the Face as a result of our rejoicing in the mitzvot. Gather together the mitzvot that we perform on the Three Pilgrim Festivals and in their merit, may we participate in the rededication of the Holy Temple, which is the channel for the illumination of the Light of the Face!

“The Light of Your Face, O Master, lift up to us.” “May God favor us and bless us; may He cause His Face to shine among us, selah.” “Shine Your Face upon Your servant; save me in Your kindness,” so that through the lighting of the Chanukah candles I will be privileged to draw the Light of the Face from the Holy Temple in order to enliven the sefirah of Malkhut, and thereby receive perceptions of Godliness.

“Let Your Face shine upon Your servant, and teach me Your ordinances.” “And every created thing shall know that You created it, and every formed thing shall understand that You formed it; and everything that possesses the breath of life in its nostrils shall declare: The Lord, God of Israel is King, and His dominion extends over all!”


In Your mercy, grant us the opportunity to give tzedakah, especially during the days of Chanukah, so that through us Your Face will shine. And by virtue of the tzedakah that we give to the poor when they come to our homes, may we receive the Light of the Face of the Living King.


In the merit of this tzedakah, may we draw closer to the true tzaddikim who reveal Your light by making the necessary tzimtzumim and vessels to illuminate even our souls, which are so far from holiness that by right we should be treated as outcasts. Nevertheless, with great self sacrifice, they labor all their days out of compassion for us and for all Israel — even those who are most distant—in order to bring us closer to God. They reveal new and wondrous tzimtzumim by which it is possible to reach anyone who wishes to enter the realm of holiness.


Have mercy on us and allow us to come close to tzaddikim like them. In Your mercy, put an end to the dispute, which was produced by our sins, surrounding those tzaddikim who strive to reach out to us. For this is why there is such great opposition to them, even from other great tzaddikim: The Divine attribute of judgment garbs itself in these opposing tzaddikirn because of their fierce holiness, which prevents them from being able to tolerate the world, due to our transgressions and unworthy deeds.


Although the truth is with them, You have already made known to us that in Your beneficence, You do not desire to reject us, God forbid. On the contrary, You always wish to judge us favorably, despite the foulness of our sins. You always wish to show compassion toward us, even to the “worst of the worst.” Therefore You create ways of fixing our damage, and garb the lights of holiness in such wondrous garments and constrictions that these lights can shine to us as well.


Thus the tzaddikim. continue to transmit the Divine light to lower levels, in increasing degrees of holiness, more and more every day, and they continue to elevate all fallen souls, imbuing them with perceptions of Godliness through holy tzimtzumim, until finally they will heal all afflicted souls in the world. Therefore have mercy on us and abolish all strife surrounding these true tzaddikim, and allow us to draw close to them. Let them remove all the shame and disgrace that has befallen us due to our sins, bring us back in complete teshuvah, and draw us close to You in truth!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Prayer Before Lighting the Menorah




Master of the Universe! Help us in Your great mercy to fulfill the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah candles in its proper time, in a perfect manner, in a spirit of holiness and purity, and with intense concentration. May we be privileged to perform these tikkunim, which we have mentioned before You, through the mitzvah of the Chanukah candles; and may our fulfillment of this mitzvah be considered in Your sight as if we had done so according to all of its details, fine points, and kavannot (intentions), as well as the complete structure of 613 mitzvot that depend upon it. 

May the light of the holiness of our mitzvot shine before You, throughout all the worlds! By performing this mitzvah may we perfect all of the worlds entirely, as well as through our performance of all the mitzvot, scriptural and rabbinic.

Let us perform them all in love and awe and with great joy, to the highest degree of perfection, until we succeed in eliciting peace from You and transmitting it to all of the worlds, in fulfillment of the verse, “God will give strength to His people, God will bless His people with peace.”[1]

May the One Who makes peace in His heights mercifully confer peace upon us and upon all Israel, amen! [2]
(LT I, 14)






[1] Psalms 29:11.
[2] Liturgy, Kaddish.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Eizer L'Shabbos Chanukah Appeal

Received via e-mail:

BS"D

Dear friend of Eizer L'Shabbos:

Please help the people in the Holy Tzefat for Chanukah.

You should be blessed in the merit of the Ari Hakadosh and  other Tzadikim from Tzefat..



Happy Chanukah

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rabbi Chaim Kramer in Cedarhurst - December 13


19 Kislev: Yahrtzeit of the Maggid of Mezeritch


19 Kislev: Yahrtzeit of the Maggid of Mezeritch
Based on Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, “Chassidic Masters,” Chapter 4, and “Until the Mashiach.”

This year “Yud-Tes Kislev,” the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Dov Ber ben Avraham (1704-1772), better known as the Maggid of Mezeritch, falls on Thursday, December 11.


On the yahrtzeit of a tzaddik, it  is customary to light a 24-hour candle, give a few coins to tzedakah and learn something from the tzaddik’s teachings or tell a story or two about him. A few translations from this great and awesome Chassidic master’s teachings can be found in a separate posting here.

According to tradition, the Maggid of Mezeritch was a leading student of the celebrated Talmudist known as the “Pnei Yehoshua” (Rabbi Yehoshua Falk, 1680-1756) in Lemberg (Lvov), at whose behest he later traveled to the Baal Shem Tov in search of a cure for his lameness. The Maggid was already a master of the Kabbalah by this time—but upon encountering the Baal Shem Tov, that mastery was forever transformed from intellectual knowledge to the most profound experiential knowledge of these mysteries.

After the Baal Shem Tov’s passing in 1760, some eight years later, the Maggid emerged as the unique disciple who would succeed in transmitting the Master’s teachings to a core of elite students, who in turn disseminated them throughout the Jewish world. Several collections of the Maggid’s oral teachings were published after the latter’s death by his disciples. These included Likutey Amarim (1780); Likutim Yekarim (1792); Ohr HaEmes (1799); and Ohr Torah (1804).

Although Rebbe Nachman was not a disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch (his formative years having been spent in the family circle of the Baal Shem Tov), he nevertheless had the highest praise for him. Reb Noson writes that once a group of people were discussing the greatness of the tzaddikim. One mentioned the testimony of a certain tzaddik that with wherever he set his eyes, the Maggid of Mezeritch could see all “Seven Shepherds” (i.e., Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David). Rebbe Nachman commented, “About the holy Maggid, one may believe everything.” Reb Noson adds that the Rebbe spoke many other praises of the Maggid and his inner circle of followers (Chayei Moharan #553).

Another great event that took place on Yud-Tes Kislev was the release of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad school of Chassidism, from the Czar’s prison. This liberation is still celebrated all over the world by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

In this connection, there is an interesting observation from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in his biography of Rebbe Nachman, “Until the Mashiach” (Breslov Research Institute), p. 40. In describing Rebbe Nachman’s journey to Israel, he writes:

“Thursday, 24 Tishrei 5559 (October 4, 1798):  The day after the holiday [of Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah] the Rebbe wanted to return home immediately. His attendant, however, again refused to go, since he wanted to visit Tiberias. The Rebbe agreed (Shivchey HaRan).

On this day, Rabbi Shneur Zalman was taken to prison. He had been denounced to the Prosecutor-General in S. Petersburg as a political agitator (Tanya, Toldos Rabbenu HaZaken, p. 207; HaTamim, 214a). [Rabbi Kaplan adds:] This might have been why the Rebbe was so brokenhearted [during the preceding holy days].”

The “coincidence” of these events—Rebbe Nachman’s mysterious grief and the accusation and then arrest of the Baal HaTanya—is remarkable.


Upon his return to Russia from his momentous journey to the Holy Land, Rebbe Nachman went straight to the Baal HaTanya in Liozna, attempting (unfortunately, without success) to make peace between him and Rabbi Avraham Kalisker in Eretz Yisrael. And when the Baal HaTanya later traveled through the Ukraine on his way to meet with Rabbi Baruch of Medzhibuzh, he stopped to spend Shabbos Yisro with Rebbe Nachman in Breslov (“Until the Mashiach,” pp. 178-179)—but that’s another story…


Zekhusam yagein aleinu!

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)


*

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.)


*

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)


*

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)

*

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.)


*

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.)


*

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


*

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.)

*

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)

*

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.)

*

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.)

*

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.)

*

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)

*


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

*

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.


*

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).

*


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

This year Asarah beTeves begins on Wednesday night, December 31 - January 1, 2015.

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)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

“The Stone That the Builders Rejected”



Retold by Dovid Sears
The following posting first appeared in 2006 on the Breslov-oriented blog, A Simple Jew.

There is a story in Reb Avraham Sternhartz’s Tovos Zichronos (Breslov oral traditions) about some astounding things one of the Reb Noson’s talmidim told the author in his youth about the Rebbe’s power of tikkun ha-neshamos (healing or perfection of souls). An English translation by Rabbi Chaim Kramer appears in the back of The Breslov Haggadah (Breslov Research Institute). This is a slightly shorter version.

Reb Pinchas Yehoshua was the son of Reb Isaac the Sofer, a close disciple of Reb Noson. He was very poor, yet well known for his piety and great devotions. One day, Reb Pinchas Yehoshua made the pilgrimage to the Rebbe’s gravesite in Uman, together with Reb Avraham Sternhartz, then in his early twenties, and Reb Motele Shochet, both of whom were very close to him. The three of them prayed there for many hours.

Reb Avraham writes:
As we turned to leave the Rebbe’s gravesite, Reb Pinchas Yehoshua began to tremble with great trepidation. “My friends,” he said, “I looked at myself, and I saw that I have been reincarnated again and again into this world.”

He then began detailing the various generations in which he lived. He said that he had been alive in the time of a certain Tanna, and then in the generation of a particular tzaddik... As he spoke, Reb Pinchos Yehoshua carefully weighed his words, their truth being clear. We believed him because we knew of his greatness and his incredible devotion to G-d. He even told us how many times his soul had already returned to this world.

Reb Pinchas Yehoshua found it extremely hard to understand why, of all the people that lived in the world when his soul was first incarnated, he alone had to endure this. The Tanna had rectified other souls. Why not his? Why did he have to suffer so many incarnations? Reb Pinchas Yehoshua began saying to himself, “Why was my soul left without a tikkun? Why was I left in the depths, in the abyss of my sins, so that I had to come down to this world again? Perhaps I would be rectified the second time around...”

Then he told us that he came back in the generation of a different tzaddik. This tzaddik worked diligently to rectify neshamos and bring them back to their source. But as before, his soul was left without its tikkun, and he had to return again – and again.

“I tried as hard as I could to understand why this was happening,” Reb Pinchas Yehoshua continued. “Finally, I realized that I alone was responsible for my fate. I, myself, because of my difficult nature and improper deeds, had made it impossible for anyone to provide me with a tikkun. Had I not learned in the Gemara that ‘the tzaddikim are builders?’ It must have been my fault that these righteous leaders were powerless to include me in the ‘buildings’ of holiness that they had made.”

I looked at Reb Motele Shochet, and he looked back at me. Neither of us could believe what we were hearing. We stood there transfixed as Reb Pinchas Yehoshua went on.

“When constructing a building,” he said, “a mason gathers all the stones that he needs for the first level of the building and starts cutting and chipping away at the corners. He forms the stones so that each one fits properly into place. When he has finished the first level, he again gathers the stones he needs and shapes them, so that he can then erect the second level. So it goes, level after level. At each level, the mason must make sure that all the stones he uses for the building are suitably formed. Many times we see that builders come across certain odd-shaped stones, which they try to use, only to find them too awkward to fit properly. In the end, they have no choice but to discard them.

“The same is true in spirituality. The great tzaddikim try to ‘build’ by attempting to rectify the souls of Israel. The Torah calls these souls ‘stones’ [as in Lamentations]. The tzaddikim work hard at this. Each stone they come across, every soul they encounter, they do their very best to fit into the building of holiness they erect.”

Reb Pinchas Yehoshua interrupted his words with a long, deep sigh. Then, with even greater intensity, he began again. “When it was my soul’s turn to play its part in the building, I came before this great Tanna. He attempted to correct me, but found that he could not succeed. He worked very hard to ‘ shape’ me, trying all different angles. However, no matter what he tried, it did not work. As soon as he corrected me on one side, I was found to be crooked on another side. Whichever way he turned my soul, it was still impossible for him to find a place for me in his ‘building.’ Seeing that it was futile, this Tanna left me alone. There was absolutely nothing he could do. The exact same thing happened the second time my soul descended into this world; and so it was with every subsequent incarnation. All the tzaddikim tried to rectify me, but their efforts failed. I was left alone through all those generations, thrown away like an odd-shaped stone, to be cast and kicked about forever.

“Yet G-d, Whose kindness is everlasting, wants all souls to be rectified, no matter what they have done. He saw my difficulties and sent me back to this world again. However, this time, in my current incarnation, I discovered something completely new: a tzaddik with a ‘building power’ that I had never seen in any of my previous incarnations. This was Rebbe Nachman of Breslov! All the Upper Worlds tremble in awe of his greatness and his holiness. Rebbe Nachman believed that a person could always come close to G-d, no matter how distant he was. In a strong voice he called out from the depths of his heart, ‘Never give up! Never despair!’ This Rebbe Nachman described himself as ‘a river that can cleanse all stains.’ From Creation until today, there never was a tzaddik who spoke such words, and with such strength and such power. In addition to hearing about Rebbe Nachman, G-d gave me the privilege of knowing Rebbe Nachman’s closest disciple, Reb Noson. He taught me Rebbe Nachman’s lessons and brought me to serve G-d.

“This is where I am now. “

And now, when I think about this, I cannot help but wonder: After being so distant from G-d all those years, how is it possible that I should I merit such a great light? How could someone so undeserving come to know of Rebbe Nachman?

“I only understood this after I contemplated the psalms of Hallel. ‘The stone despised by all the builders has become the cornerstone.’ In other words, this soul – the very same soul that had been discarded by all the great tzaddikim – has now come to the tzaddik, who is the ‘cornerstone,’ the foundation of the entire world. ‘This has come from G-d; it is wondrous in our eyes.’ It is truly wondrous how G-d deals with every single soul, making certain that it achieves its tikkun. The great tzaddikim never give up trying to correct all souls, because this is what G-d truly wants.

“I saw from this,” Reb Pinchas Yehoshua concluded, “that no matter what happens to us, we must understand that there is salvation. We can always come back to G-d.


“And these are the next words we say in the Hallel: ‘This is the day that G-d has made, we will rejoice...’ For today, in our generation, G-d gave us such a great leader, Rebbe Nachman, who instilled in us the faith that we can always turn to G-d, no matter where we are. Then G-d will redeem the Jewish People, and we will know nothing but great joy and happiness all the rest of our days, amen!”

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rabbi Ozer Bergman in Cedarhurst



Received by e-mail:



With gratitude to Hashem, Breslov of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns is pleased to announce a shiur on Inyanei Chanukah this Monday evening (December 8/ Kislev 17) at 8:15 pm with Rabbi Ozer Bergman of Yerushalayim. Rabbi Bergman is the author of "Where Earth and Heaven Kiss, a guide to Rebbe Nachman's path of meditation."


Location: Beis HaMedrash Chaim vi-Shalom

530 Central Avenue in Cedarhurst (next door to Citibank)

Refreshments will be served.


All are welcome. Please notify anyone you think may be interested. 

Looking forward to seeing you!