Thursday, September 24, 2015

Rabbi Nachman’s Yahrzeit

On the second day of Chol ha-Moed Sukkos (18th of Tishrei), Breslover Chassidim and others commemorate the yahrtzeit of our holy teacher, Rabbi Nachman ben Feige of Breslov, zatzal, by lighting a 24-hour candle and gathering with others in the Sukkah to share divrei Torah, sing niggunim, and participate in a se’udah / festive meal. In larger Breslov communities, this event is usually held in the Sukkah of the local Breslov synagogue. Various speakers discuss the Rebbe’s life and spiritual legacy, and say divrei hischazkus, words of encouragement based on Rabbi Nachman's teachings. The event concludes with a lively rikkud. It is also proper to study the Rebbe’s teachings more than usual on his yahrtzeit.

Reb Noson’s account of the Rebbe’s final months in Uman and his histalkus may be found in Chayei Moharan, sec. 185-229. In Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum’s English translation, “Tzaddik: A Portrait of Rabbi Nachman” (Breslov Research Institute), this material is presented in pp. 87-125. (Concerning the Yahrtzeit of a tzaddik, cf. Rabbi Chaim Vital, Likkutei ha-Shas, Berakhos 11.) The late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan also compiled “Until the Mashiach,” Breslov Research Institute 1985, a biography of Rabbi Nachman in English organized in the form of a dateline. After Rabbi Kaplan’s death, Rabbi Dovid Shapiro of Yerushalayim completed this work.

In Greater New York:

This year the yahrtzeit falls on Wednesday night September 30 through Thursday Oct. 1. Breslov shuls in Flatbush, Monroe, Borough Park, Williamsburg and elsewhere will host public events. (For more information, see the list of contacts on the "Breslov Shuls" page of this website, listed on the right sidebar.) However, be prepared: all these events will be conducted in Yiddish.

Two Teachings About the Sukkah

Two Teachings About the Sukkah
From the unpublished "Breslov Tehillim" (BRI)

Psalm 27

“Indeed, He will hide me in His shelter (sukkah) on a day of evil.” The sukkah shields a person on a day of evil. That is, when one falls away from Divine service, if he will only strengthen himself and not give up, he will find himself shielded and sheltered by an extremely lofty level of holiness: the aspect of the sukkah, which corresponds to the Supernal Mother.[1] This holiness will encompass him like a protective mother so that he does not fall, God forbid, when he comes to a place of danger. It is also understood from the words of [Rebbe Nachman] that when a person finds himself in a spiritual tailspin, in the very place he has fallen, the greatest holiness is concealed.[2] When he supplicates God and finds Him there, at that very hour he will attain the loftiest sanctity (LH, Rosh Hashanah 4:7).

Psalm 35

“All of my bones shall declare, ‘God, who is like You?’ ” The sefirah of Binah is the archetype of the mother; it is where the embryo is formed, as in the verse, “If (IM) you call to understanding (binah)” (Proverbs 2:3). [The word Im is homiletically related to EiM, meaning “mother.”] Binah is also an aspect of the mitzvah of Sukkah, as it is written, “You sheltered me (teSuKeini) in the womb of my mother (IMi)” (Psalms 139:13). When a person prays with intense concentration, and he puts all his force into the letters of prayer, this is an aspect of “All of my bones shall declare, ‘God, who is like You?’ ” This is analogous to the Sukkah, as it is written, “You encompassed me (teSoKhekheini) with bones and sinews” (Job 10:1). The letters of the prayers which one utters with all his might (KoaCh, which has the numerical value of twenty-eight) become the twenty-eight letters of the act of creation (i.e., the number of letters in the first verse of Genesis). Thus, his words are the very words of the Holy One, blessed be He, as in the verse, “I put My words in your mouth” (Isaiah 51:16). [Thus by virtue of prayer with intense concentration, one who prays becomes a “spiritual Sukkah” and an instrument of the Divine speech of creation] (LM I, 48).

[1] I.e., the sefirah of Binah/Understanding, which is the “mother” of the lower seven sefirot. Associated with the upper letter heh in the Divine Name YHVH, Binah also alludes to the ohr makif, or trancendent plane.
[2] Rebbe Nachman discusses this concept in Likutey Moharan I, 56. This is also related to the widely-discussed issue of the yeridah le-tzorekh aliyah, “descent for the sake of an ascent.” 

Breslov Customs and Practices for Sukkos

Compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

We have included a number of personal customs of various Breslover gedolim, in particular Rabbi Gedaliah Ahron Kenig, as well as a few general Breslov customs.

Esrog/Arba’ah Minim

The Rebbe greatly praised those who exert themselves to buy a beautiful esrog, adding that there are profound mystical reasons for this custom.

(Sichot ha-Ran 125. Reb Noson was mehader in this mitzvah, as mentioned in Yemey Moharnat, Letters 91, 269, 322, 437, and 472)


Nevertheless, Reb Gedaliah Kenig cautioned that a poor person should not spend beyond his means for an esrog. Often he would wait until Erev Yom Tov in order to buy an esrog after the prices had dropped.

(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig)


Reb Gedaliah considered the beauty of an esrog to be more important than its yichus, since in any case there is no such thing as a vaday bilti murkav (ungrafted plant beyond any question), but only be-chezkas bilti murkav (presumably ungrafted plant) This was not an unusual attitude, but reflected the prevailing view of Yerushalayimer Poskim. Accordingly, one should look for a clean esrog with as many hiddurim as possible, even if it does not have a special yichus.

(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro. From a historical perspective, the issue of grafting became hotly debated in the mid-1800s in connection with esrogim from Corfu. Those from Eretz Yisrael were generally relied upon as bilti murkav and were praised by such luminaries as the Arukh HaShulchan and the Sdei Chemed. In the early 1900s, Rav Kook established the “Atzey Hadar” union to develop and promote esrogim mehudarim in Eretz Yisrael, which met with great success.)


Reb Gedaliah was more stringent about hadassim, and would often go to great lengths to buy the finest hadassim, which conformed to one of the larger shiurim of meshuloshim.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig)


The minhag of the ARI zal for the Arba’ah Minim is to place one aravah (willow branch) on each side of the lulav with the three hadassim (myrtle branches) covering them, and to bind them together with leaves of the lulav. Rabbi Moshe Burshteyn of Yerushalayim remembered that Reb Avraham Sternhartz bound the Arba’ah Minim together according to the minhag of the ARI zal. Rabbi Michel Dorfman concurred.

(Heard from Rabbi Moshe Burshteyn and Rabbi Michel Dorfman)


Rabbi Noson Barsky, son of Rabbi Shimon Barsky, also bound the Arba’ah Minim like the ARI zal. His father probably did so, too, but this is not certain.

(Heard from Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Bnei Brak. The Barskys are direct descendents of Rabbi Nachman.)


Nevertheless, most Breslover Chassidim follow the more common custom of placing the three hadassim on the right of the lulav and the two aravos on the left. Reb Elazar Kenig remembered that his father Reb Gedaliah used to tie the Arba’ah Minim with leaves of the lulav, simply tying knots, not making the leaves into rings; however, Reb Gedaliah did not arrange them according to the minhag of the ARI zal. Reb Elazar said that this probably reflected the general rule of avoiding doing things in public that are conspicuously different than the common practice.

(Re. the common custom, see Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, Kitzur SHeLaH, Masekhes Sukkah [Ashdod 1998 ed. p. 322. Although the latter is a major early source of kabbalistic customs and hanhagos, it nevertheless instructs the reader to arrange the arba’ah minim according to the common minhag, not according to that of the ARI.)


Reb Elazar Kenig also pointed out that that in Likkutei Halakhos, Reb Noson sometimes darshans on minhagim of the ARI zal, while at other times he cites the local Ukrainian minhagim of his day. Thus, it is apparent that Reb Noson did not do everything according to the ARI zal.


Reb Avraham Sternhartz tied the top ring one tefach below the tip of the lulav itself -- not from the end of the shedra, as stated in Shulchan Arukh Ha-Rav, which is quoted in the Mishnah Berurah. Reb Avraham tied a total of three rings on the lulav, and two on the entire bundle. These were also Reb Gedaliah’s personal customs.

(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro and Rabbi Yitzchok Kenig)


Reb Gedaliah was particular to recite the berakhah over the Arba’ah Minim in the Sukkah, following the view of the ARI zal. Reb Noson also mentions this custom.

(Likkutei Halakhos , Rosh Hashanah 4:8; Umnin 4:18)


Reb Gedaliah performed the nanuim according to the minhag of the ARI zal. This is the common custom in most Chassidic communities. That is, while facing east, one waves the arba’ah minim to the right, left, front, up, down, and over one’s shoulder, over one’s back. Some turn while doing so. When waving the minim in the down position, one should nevertheless keep the lulav upright and not point the tip toward the ground. (These directions correspond to the six sefiros of Ze’er Anpin; see Likkutei Moharan I, 33, end.)


Reb Avraham Sternhartz used to perform the nanuim according to the minhag of the ARI.
(Heard from Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn)


In Reb Gedaliah’s family, the women were accustomed recite the berakhah over the arba’ah minim and perform the nanuim every day.

No’i Sukkah (Sukkah Decorations)

It is common for Breslover Chassidim to decorate the Sukkah, like the majority of Jewish communities. Most hang various fruits and other objects from the s’khakh, according to their family minhagim. There does not seem to be any kepeidah to refrain from hanging things from the s’khakh due to chumros.

(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)


Reb Gedaliah used to hang a pomegranate from the s’khakh, which he would save in the refrigerator until Pesach, and if it was still good, he’d use it in the charoses. (Pomegranates were not usually available in Eretz Yisrael at Pesach-time during those years.)

He also had a family minhag to take an onion and put a few feathers into it and hang it from the s’khakh, as a remez to the posuk: “Be-tzeyl kenafekhah yechesoyun . . . In the shadow of Your wings I take refuge.” (“Bet-zeyl” is similar to the word “batzel,” meaning “onion.”)

Another family minhag was to hang a magen Dovid from the s’khakh. (This predates the secular state of Israel and its choice of the magen Dovid as its symbol.)

(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig)


It is customary to invite the Ushpizin (“Holy Guests”) to the Sukkah before each meal, both by night and by day. There does not seem to have been any special nusach for inviting the Ushpizin, just what is stated in the nusach Sefard machzor.

(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn. The first part of the commonly used zimun is derived from Zohar III, 103b.)


Like other Chassidim, Breslovers follow the order according to which the seven Ushpizin correspond to the seven lower sefiros: Avraham-Chesed, Yitzchak-Gevurah, Ya’akov-Tiferes, Moshe-Netzach, Aharon-Hod, Yosef-Yesod, and Dovid-Malkhus. This assumption is supported by Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman’s remarks connecting the day of the Rebbe’s histalkus, which is the fourth day of Sukkos, to Moshe Rabbeinu, the fourth of the Ushpizin.

(See Kokhvei Ohr, Chokhmah u-Binah 35, with note 43, ad loc. Neither Siddur ARI Rav Asher nor Siddur ARI Rav Shabsai specifies the order of the Ushpizin. However, Siddur ARI Kol Yaakov redacts the Ashkenazic order, which mentions Yosef fourth instead of Moshe. Siddur Tefillah Yesharah-Berditchev and Siddur Ohr le-Yisrael, both of which were popular in the Ukraine, similarly follow the Ashkenazic order. Nevertheless, virtually all Chassidim today mention Moshe as the fourth of the Ushpizin. This reflects the view of the ARI zal and Siddur SheLaH, as cited in Likkutei MaHaRICH, vol. III, Seder Chag ha-Sukkos, p. 684.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Abba Richman's Photos of Uman

One of the special treats of going to Uman for Rosh Hashanah is seeing old and dear friends -- and for me, Abba Richman is at the top of the list. 

Abba is a wonderful photographer (and book designer), whose 2014 Uman photos may be sampled here

We look forward to seeing the new ones from this past Rosh Hashanah. And we wish Abba a refuah sheleimah for the cold he caught this year -- an inevitable hazard of all those planes and crowds -- and which I inherited once we got back to New York... DS

On another website, Abba writes:

"I was born in the UK and have been living in Israel since 1967. I studied Graphic Design and Photography at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. 

"My waking hours are spent in front of a computer (far too much) photographing for a living (trying to), photographing for pleasure (not enough), teaching photography (love it) and as a volunteer Magen David Adom Medic/Ambulance driver (sorry, no pictures). 

"There is nothing to be invented in the visual world, it's all there and been photographed a million times. I don't photograph glorious sunsets, fantastic landscapes, flowers, pets or beautiful things (or people). I find myself again and again looking at ordinary everyday things, at rubbish,  backyards, at the man in the street, looking at things really close up and trying to find beauty in their colour and form. Sometimes I find that beauty, more often I don't. Now and then I am satisfied with what I have photographed, occasionally very satisfied, and sometimes well, I just start again and keep on looking.  In my search I constantly thank God for giving me the eyes to see. 

"I live in Efrat a small township near Jerusalem, with my wife Liliana. We have six children and 16 grandchildren."

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Reb Noson’s Yom Kippur

From “Otzar Nachmani,” Vol. I, sec. 61-62
Translated by Dovid Sears

The first volume of a collection of transcribed “sichos” – Chassidic teachings in the form of anecdotes and oral histories – has been published by the sons of the late Rabbi Nachman Burstein, zatzal. Reb Nachman was a “chad bi-doro,” a unique figure in the Breslov community of Yerushalayim. A master story-teller, baal menagen and singer, baal tefillah and respected talmid chokhom, Reb Nachman brought a special warmth and “chassidishkeit” into Breslov. This wonderful little book is a tribute to the memory of this great teacher and friend to several generations of Breslover Chasidim. He is sorely missed.

Reb Noson’s Yom Kippur
Reb Noson used to say, “The Rebbe’s zakh (mission, task) is Rosh Hashanah—and mine is Yom Kippur.” Concerning this, the Breslover Chassidim explain that the culmination of the Rebbe’s tikkunim comes about through Reb Noson, for without him we would have no way to receive the Rebbe’s light, or his tikkunim and spiritual advice. As the Rebbe attested of Reb Noson, “If not for him, you wouldn’t have even a page of my book” (Chayei Moharan 370). 

The entire matter of the Rosh Hashanah gathering in Uman that has endured from generation to generation, following the ascent of the Rebbe, of blessed memory, from the body was due to the great effort and self-sacrifice of Reb Noson, as described in various sources. Therefore, he declared, “My task is Yom Kippur”—since what was decreed on Rosh Hashanah is sealed on Yom Kippur.
Moreover, it is a day of beseeching forgiveness (selichah). Thus, just before his death Reb Noson was heard to repeat again and again the phrase “chanun hamarbeh lis’lo’ach (gracious One, abundant in forgiveness”)—the gematria (numerical value) of which is “Noson.” (See Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman, “Chokhmah u-Binah”: Chanun=114, hamarbeh=252, lis’lo’ach=134; Total=500. Noson=500) For his mission was Yom Kippur—to increase in supplication, defending and finding merit in others and interceding for their good, as well as in encouragement and restoring the soul, even of those who had fallen to the lowest levels, as he stated. Therefore, Reb Noson greatly desired that his disciples come to him for Yom Kippur, when he would undertake what he would undertake… (Reb Nachman states that he heard this from Reb Itche Meir Korman, Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender, and Reb Elyah Chaim Rosen). 


Once before Yom Kippur, Reb Noson urged the wealthy philanthropist Reb Abaleh of Tcherin to spend the holy day with him, as well as to attend the seudah hamafsekes, the last meal before the commencement of the fast, with him and other guests. For it was known that during this meal, Reb Noson was accustomed to speak with all those present at his table and deliver the most profound teachings, expressed with fiery intensity and passion, regarding the holiness and awe of the holy Day of Judgment. (See the Introduction to “Yemey ha-Tla’os.”) Knowing that the food served by the wealthy included various delicacies, Reb Noson added, “Aye, you serve large fish and I serve small fish—but that’s nothing (nisht geferlach). The main thing is that you should come to me for the holy day!” (Reb Nachman Burstein states that he heard this from Reb Itche Meir Korman and Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender.)

 (And the Breslover Chassidim point out that Reb Noson mentioned fish specifically because it is customary to serve fish on Erev Yom Kippur, as mentioned in the Tur, Orach Chaim.)
 This is an appropriate place to quote the manuscript of Rabbi Moshe Glidman, of blessed memory (also known as Reb Moshe Chenstekhover—who attended Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman, particularly during the latter’s final months, with great self-sacrifice, as described elsewhere). He writes the following sichah in his notes, which is relevant to our subject: Once someone mentioned in Reb Noson’s presence the words of the Rav of Berditchev, “When the holy Days of Awe approach, one’s shoulders tingle from terror and fear of the Day of Judgment.” Reb Noson commented on this, “This is how we already must tingle [from awe], to the point that we won’t notice any difference when this tingling comes.”

[Reb Moshe] adds that the Rav of Berditchev further remarked, “When the night of Erev Yom Kippur arrives, even the fish in the sea tremble in fear of the Day of Judgment!”
 We also read: Once Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman of Tulchin sat together with the local Breslover Chassidim on Erev Yom Kippur at the seudas ha-mafsekes. When they finished the meal, he told them the above story with dread and fear of Heaven, and a great awe fell upon them all. They recited the Grace After Meals with intense concentration and reverence. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Rabbi Avraham Yehuda Jakubowicz zatzal

We are saddened to announce the passing of Rabbi Avraham Yehuda Jakubowicz (pronounced “Yakubovitch”) of Toronto, one of the most loved and respected Breslov elders. 

He was 93 years old, and leaves a family of bnei Torah v'anshei maaseh.

Rabbi  Jakubowicz, of blessed memory, was born in Toronto, where his parents had emigrated from Poland after World War I. As a youth, he studied at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in New York. He also had close family ties to the Modzitzer Rebbe (the Imrei Shaul), and through Modzitz he met the devout Polish Breslover chassid, Rabbi Baruch (“Beirich”) Rubinson, zatzal, one of the leading members of the post-World War II New York Breslov kehillah. He once remarked, “From the day I came close to Rebbe Nachman I have been happy!”

He also had a close relationship with the Breslover kabbalist Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, zatzal, who penned most of the letters subsequently published in “Michtevey Shmuel” to him.
Rabbi Jakubowicz was renowned for his hachnosas orchim, and his home was open to guests of all sorts, including Gedoley Breslov such as Rabbi Elya Chaim Rosen and Reb Noson Zvi Kenig, zikhronam levrakha. He was also a co-founder of a tzedakah organization for the benefit of poor families in Eretz Yisrael.

May he be a meilitz yosher for his family and for all Klal Yisrael.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Reb Avraham’s Passing

From Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig’s Shaarey Tzaddik, Vol. I, Letter 8 (sec. 2)
Translated by Dovid Sears (unedited)

Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig, zatzal, was asked in a letter from one of his talmidim about the histalkus (ascent to the world above) of Reb Gedaliah’s revered teacher, Moreinu ha-Rav Avraham Sternhartz, zatzal – who was widely considered the preeminent Breslov teacher of his generation. (For a brief biography of Reb Avraham, see here.) After confessing his pain in contemplating his profound loss as well as his feelings of inadequacy in describing these events, Reb Gedaliah wrote:

Many weeks before his histalkus [Reb Avraham] was extremely weak. He bemoaned his plight and repeatedly said, “Vi azoy brengt men aza guf tzu Reb Shimon al Rosh Hashanah! How can I bring such a [broken] body to Reb Shimon [Bar Yochai in Meron] on Rosh Hashanah!”—for it was close to Rosh Hashanah. We tried to console him that Hashem would yet help him to be with the tzaddik emes (“true tzaddik”), the G-dly Tanna [sage of the Mishnah] RaSHBI [an acronym for Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai], may his merits shield us, together with us.
[All this occurred during the years when it was impossible to travel to Uman for Rosh Hashanah Therefore, at Reb Avraham’s behest, many Breslover chassidim in Eretz Yisrael went to the pray near the grave site of RaSHBI in Meron. Reb Avraham’s views on this issue are presented in “Amaros Tehoros” (published together with some of his Breslov oral histories, “Tovos Zikhronos”) and in Rabbi Shmuel Moshe Kramer’s polemical essay, “Chadi Rabbi Shimon.” A large Breslov Rosh Hashanah gathering still takes place in Meron for those who cannot travel to Uman every year. DS]

We told him that it was possible to make the journey a little at a time. We could hire a private taxi and accompany him and attend to his needs; and it seemed to us that he was amenable to this suggestion. But from various hints that he gave, it was possible to understand that he felt that his end was near. The main intent of his words to us was that we must fortify ourselves with all our souls to travel to RaSHBI for the holy days of Rosh Hashanah—until one day we would merit to be at the tziyyun of our holy Rebbe, the “flowing brook, source of wisdom” (Proverbs 18:4, the Hebrew initials of which spell “Nachman”), in Uman. He explicitly assured us, declaring, “Our Rosh Hashanah beside the G-dly Tanna RaSHBI in Meron will endure…” And he added, “Know and believe with perfect faith that traveling to RaSHBI is [the same as] traveling to the Rebbe!” He repeated this countless times, with the intent of imbuing this faith deeply in our hearts forever, for our eternal benefit. Fortunate is whoever heeds him!

All that last year, and particularly during those final weeks, he reviewed from memory Likutey Moharan and Likutey Halakhos, as well as the works of his grandfather, the Rav of Tcherin, zatzal. That is, after the effort of sitting at the table for his fixed daily study of the Gemara, Poskim, and the holy Zohar, etc., he was sometimes compelled to lie down for several hours; due to his great weakness, it was impossible for him to hold any book in his holy hands. Then he would review from memory the lessons [from Rebbe Nachman] that he used to teach publicly when he lived in the Diaspora, in the same style that he had delivered them, with even greater vigor and strength, whether silently in thought or aloud, to the greatest extent possible. Many times when I visited him, he told me, “Tonight I reviewed the lesson ‘Tiku-Emunah’… Tonight I reviewed the lesson ‘Viyehi Na Pi Sh’nayim Bi-ruchakha Eilai’…’ and other such lengthy teachings from Likutey Moharan, together with their related sections of Likutey Halakhos. Similarly, he greatly increased his recitation of Psalms, especially during his last days.

The day before his passing I was with him alone for many hours and was privileged to attend him. I wanted to remain there beside him at night, as well, in order to serve him; for I saw that the G-dly light was about to be extinguished, and who knew what the night would bring? It seems that he read my thoughts, for he turned to me, saying, “You can go home.” I didn’t wish to burden him with further discussion, given his infirmity. So I placed my trust in Hashem, may His Name be blessed, that tomorrow I would yet find [my teacher] alive.

So it was that I went home with a broken heart. And the next afternoon I came to him and found him sitting on his bed beside the table. He washed his hands with a copious amount of water and then lay down on the bed. He told me that many of our fellow Breslover Chassidim had come to visit him. They had learned with him a bit, and after about an hour went their way. He mentioned their names to me, and began to recall his conversation with them. However, I was unable to hear all of his words; even when I leaned closer to his holy mouth, I could only make out a few words here and there.

While he was lying thus, I busied myself with bringing water to cleanse the room. While doing so, I glanced at him and saw that he was close to death, and my heart was rent within me. Yet Hashem gave me the strength not to break down and cry out loud. But secretly my soul wept over the bitter day that drew near—and I began to pray to Hashem to have pity on us and grant him a speedy and complete healing.

In the midst of this, [Reb Avraham] sat up again and said to me, with a cheerful face, “I’d like to eat part of a roll.” I was overjoyed that he had such a desire. While I prepared it for him, though, he changed his mind and said, “Let me have some cake instead.” So I broke up the cake into small pieces and placed them in his holy mouth. I also fed him a few spoonfuls of chicken soup that I had made for him, so that it would be easier for him to chew and swallow the cake. While doing so, he again lay down on the bed, and I finished feeding him the cake and the rest of the soup while he reclined. He was able to swallow well, in the normal way—blessed be Hashem and blessed be His Name forever, in that He granted me the eternal merit of feeding such a holy body to satisfaction, so close to death. And I saw that [Reb Avraham] ate with a wondrous ratzon [i.e., the innermost will and desire of the soul for unification with Hashem, as discussed in Likutey Moharan I, 7; DS].

Afterward, I wanted him to eat an egg, as well, but he said to leave this for “afterwards…” because he wished to rest a bit. I heard him recite the berakhah achronah (blessing after eating), and when he finished his blessing, his lips began to move, and I didn’t know what he was saying. He placed his left hand under his head and slept thus for a quarter of an hour, dozing lightly. And I stood over him and intently watched every movement he made. Suddenly I saw that the gesisah (signs of imminent death) had begun; I was extremely frightened and began to weep in a whisper. (I didn’t want to raise my voice, since in the next room sat the daughter of our friend, Rav Moshe Burstein and his Rebbetzin—and his daughter was pregnant at that time, and I was concerned that she not be upset by my cries. Therefore, I forced myself with all my strength to contain my emotions.) [Reb Avraham lived with the Burstein family in the Katamon section of Yerushalayim during his last years, after his wife passed away. DS]

I saw that he closed his holy eyes and began to breathe abnormally long breaths. I was alone in the room with him and repeated many times the verse “Shema Yisrael…” in a loud voice. And I understood that he recited the verse after me, word by word.

Suddenly he opened his holy eyes wide and looked around the room at all sides, and he fixed his gaze upon me, for I stood facing him. Intentionally I peered into his holy eyes so that he would see me clearly this last time, and thus remember me always and intercede above for me.

Then he began to shut his eyelids slowly, until he closed his holy and pure eyes which had shone with heavenly radiance and which were brighter than jewels—which he had merited to attain through his profuse prayers and holy tears beyond measure, and by driving sleep from his eyes to labor in Torah study and prayer. Day and night, he didn’t rest or desist throughout his holy and untainted life; fortunate is he!

And so his soul departed in sanctity and purity, and his inner being (tzurah) cleaved to her Maker with the “Divine Kiss” [neshikin, as described in Berakhos 8a], without any contortions or convulsions. Rather, everything took place in great tranquility and wondrous presence of mind (yishuv ha-daas), the like of which we never saw. I continued to repeat aloud the verse “Shema Yisrael” until the family members in the adjoining room heard, and they went to summon others to enter [Reb Avraham’s bedroom]. When they came in, they observed him and said that he had already passed on to the next world, to reside in eternal life, leaving all Israel bereft [of his holy presence in our midst].

Then I rent my garment, according to the law [see Yoreh Deah 340:5, 8; DS], and the tears flowed from my eyes. I lingered beside him until a number of other Breslover chassidim arrived. I then traveled [into the Old City] to inform the chevra kaddisha (burial society) and the Breslover chassidim of the Old City to come and attend to the deceased and to pay their respects. May his merits shield us, and may we follow in his footsteps constantly, from this world to the next world, amen netzach sela va’ed.     

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

20 Elul: Yahrtzeit of Reb Avraham Sternhartz

The twentieth of Elul is the yahrtzeit of Reb Avraham Sternhartz (1862‐1955), grandson of the Tcheriner Rav, great‐grandson of Reb Noson, and teacher of Reb Gedaliah Kenig and numerous other Breslover Gedolim.

An orphan, Reb Avraham was raised by the Tcheriner Rov, and during his youth met all of the living talmidim of Reb Noson, including Reb Moshe Breslover. He was Ba’al Mussaf and Ba’al Tokei’a for many decades in Uman, and served as Rav of Kremenchug and later in Uman until he escaped the U.S.S.R. at the height of the Stalinist purges, arriving in Yerushalayim in 1936. Reb Avraham immediately became a key figure in the Yerushalayim community, attracting many talmidim (disciples), and soon established the Rosh Hashanah kibbutz in Meron. After Reb Avraham’s histalkus (passing) in 1955, Reb Gedaliah devoted himself to carrying on his revered teacher’s legacy.

In Eretz Yisrael, se’udos are held in Reb Avraham’s honor on the evening of Khof Elul. During the afternoon, Reb Elazar and a group from the Tzefas Breslov community travel to Har Menuchos in Yerushalayim to recite Tehillim and pray beside Reb Avraham’s grave. Many Breslover Chassidim also light a candle, give tzedakah, share a se’udoh in his honor, and learn some of his teachings from Tovos Zichronos, etc.

After Reb Avraham’s histalkus, Reb Gedaliah published his teacher’s Tovos Zichronos, Breslover mesorahs / oral traditions related to the first ten lessons in Likkutei Moharan, together with the Tcheriner Rov’s Yerach ha‐Eisanim, chiddushim on Likkutei Moharan related to Rosh Hashanah, and Reb Avraham’s Imros Tehoros on the importance of traveling to tzaddikim, particularly Rabbi Nachman, for Rosh Hashanah. Some of Reb Avraham’s letters were published by Reb Noson Zvi Kenig of Bnei Brak as Rinas Tzion.