Friday, October 25, 2019

True Joy


(Painting by Zvi Malnovitzer)


Shaarey Tzaddik, Vol. 3,
Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig, zatzal
Excerpt from Letter 74
Translation by Dovid Sears

In memory of my dear friend Reb Yaacov Matisyahu ben Zvi (Sternbach), zal, who was niftar last summer (2019)

Yahrtzeit: 13 Tammuz

The last time that I spoke over the phone with Reb Yaacov, he was already in the advanced stages of prostate cancer. I asked him how he was coping emotionally, and he replied, “I’m b’simchah!” I was amazed. I asked him, “How do you do it?” Reb Yaacov explained, “In the Rebbe’s story of the Seven Beggars, the king who gives over the rulership of his kingdom to his son during his lifetime tells the prince that his spiritual test will be whether or not he can remain b’simchah even when he loses his throne. I understood from this that always being b’simchah must be a very important thing. So I am always b’simchah!”

During the shiva, I heard from one of his sons that Reb Yaacov was in good spirits until two hours before his passing, when he lost consciousness.

May he intercede above for his family and for Klal Yisrael, and have a “lechtigeh gan eden,” amen.

[Reb Gedaliah writes:]

The first thing [one needs] to open the gate through which the tzaddikim pass, and thus to enter the “holy palace,” is to acquire true simchah (joy), and to banish depression, which is utterly worthless (pasul). In this context, the entire Jewish people are deemed tzaddikim. By means of true simchah, whose source is in the heart (as our Rebbe repeatedly states), the understanding of the mind is prepared, and the heart is opened to grasp each matter clearly and without error. And through the banishment of depression, one attains the perception that “Hashem is the Lord, there is none other than Him,”[i] and “His kingship extends over all.”

One can open [the gate of] the “palace” of simchah only by heeding the fitting advice of Lesson 282 in Likutey Moharan, “Azamra… I will sing unto my G-d b’odi”—[according to Rebbe Nachman’s reading of the verse, “with the little bit of good that I still can find”].” One must always search for each good point in whatever one merits to do, time after time, and to enliven oneself with this. Thus, one will come to rejoice in G-d with true simchah.

No good point should ever seem insignificant in one’s sight, even if it may seem to be infinitesimally small. For we do not have permission, nor do we possess the ability to measure any good point, whatever it may be, or assess the height of its spiritual status. For our mortal minds are too poor and small to measure it, and we don’t know [the nature of these mysteries]. Thus, it is self-understood that each good point in one’s divine service is bound up with Eternity—which is the Infinite One, may He be blessed. If so, how can one give [this good point] any measurement? Who can be so presumptuous as to say that this point is great and that point is minute, this one is lofty and that one is lowly?

This is as our Sages state: “Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major mitzvah—for you do not know the [heavenly] reward of the mitzvos” (Avos 2:1). For in truth, Hashem esteems and delights in every good point in one’s divine service, whether in Torah or Tefillah or good deeds, which ascends above from this physical world through the actions of the holy nation of Israel. This is all precious “merchandise” to Hashem; it is all stored up in His treasure trove of goodness, and not one of these [good points] is missing.

Look and see what our Rebbe writes (L”M I, 17, in the lesson “And it was when they emptied their sacks...”, section 1) that all of the higher and lower worlds, and all that they contain, in general and in particular, receive their effluence of the divine life-force only from the pride and delight that Hashem derives from the divine service of the Jewish people, His holy nation, in this lower realm, which is the central point of physicality and materiality. See there, where he states: “It sometimes happens that some ordinary Jew gives his peyos (sidelocks) a shake, and the Blessed One takes great pride even in this!” Understand and consider how far these matters reach, and you will derive life from them.

According to these words and this truth, Hashem has helped me to explain the praise of the Omnipresent One that we recite in the first blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh prayer, [where we refer to the Creator as] “Owner (koneh) of all.” [Koneh can also mean “purchaser.”] That is, Hashem possesses every good point that is inherent in the divine service of Israel, His Holy Nation, because He derives pleasure and delight from them all; and through this, He sustains all the worlds entirely and confers upon them all goodness. This is comparable (l’havdil) in physical terms to a great merchant who purchases the finest merchandise, paying for it the price it deserves. Now, the Blessed One does not forsake anything, but possesses everything, for every good point that ascends from this world is most precious in Hashem’s eyes. Only Hashem knows how to measure in truth the value every good point, whatever it may be. All of them are “good merchandise,” and He pays for them a high price—which is the divine effluence of goodness to all the worlds, quite apart from the reward that is stored away in the World to Come for [that individual who has thus served Hashem]. This is the meaning of “Owner (koneh) of all.” That is, Hashem acquires each good point, and for this reason is called the “Owner of all”—because for the sake of His receiving this pleasure and delight, Hashem created all of His “possessions,” which are the [various] worlds and all they contain, and He sustains and confers upon them all goodness.

Through the deep contemplation of this holy advice, you will come to true and complete simchah, with the help of Hashem, in all your endeavors. For it is impossible that there not be in all of one’s efforts in divine service some point which is good in Hashem’s sight. This is the path one should follow until one reaches the zenith of true simchah in Hashem, in cultivating the knowledge of His ways, may He be blessed, which are embedded in our holy Torah and in the fulfillment of her holy mitzvos, in all their details, with the desire of a pure heart and spirit, according to the Blessed One’s will.

These words of encouragement came to my mind when I was standing and praying the morning Shemoneh Esreh on the Seventh Day of Passover this year (5724 / 1964).



[i] The Chasidic understanding of this verse, based on earlier sources such as the Shnei Luchos HaBris and the Maharal, and as is implicit in the kabbalistic works of Rav Moshe Cordovero, is that Hashem is not only the one true God, but the Ultimate Reality, within which everything is subsumed. I have enumerated some of these sources elsewhere, including in “The Water Castle” (BRI), Overview of Hilkhot Tola’im 4, pp. 31-32, notes 6-8 (see references there).

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev: 25 Tishrei


Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (1740–1809), also known as the Berdichever Rov, was a leading disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch and an outstanding figure in the early Chassidic movement. He served as rabbi of several cities, including Ritchvol (Ryczywół), Zhelichov, Pinsk and most famously, Berditchev. He was also a disciple of Chassidic leader Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsburg, whom he succeeded as rabbi of Ritchvol. Among his own disciples was the young Reb Noson of Nemirov (later Breslov) before he met Rabbi Nachman.

The Berditchover Rov was known as the "defense attorney" for the Jewish people, because he constantly sought to intercede on their behalf before God. He was also known as Der Baremdiger, the “Merciful,” due to his boundless compassion. Due to this, many consider it to be beneficial to recite his name and mother’s name in times of trouble: “Levi Yitzchak ben Sarah Sasha."

His mystical teachings were later published as Kedushas Levi, which is arranged according to the weekly Torah portion, and which almost immediately became a Chassidic classic. (Selections from this work were translated to English by Rabbi Arye Kaplan in his anthology, Chassidic Masters (Chapter 6). There are now other translations, as well.)

Reb Levi Yitzchok also penned a haskamah (approbation) to the commentary Keser Nehora, which was eventually combined with the Nusach of the Zlotchover Maggid and published in Berditchev as Siddur Tefillah Yesharah (the “Berditchever Siddur”). This Siddur was widely used by countless tzaddikim, chassidim vi-anshei ma’aseh.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok was close with another prominent disciple of the Great Maggid, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya and founder of the Chabad school of Chassidism. Later they became machatanim, relatives through marriage.

He also defended Rabbi Nachman of Breslov against the denunciations of Chassidic elder Rabbi Arye Leib of Shpola, known as the “Shpoler Zeide.” (See Chayei Moharan, #122). He even declared, “If I thought people would listen to me, I’d cry out with a voice that could be heard from one end of the world to the other, ‘Whoever wants to be pure and saintly and serve G-d should attach himself to Rabbi Nachman!’ “

This admiration was mutual. Rabbi Nachman called Reb Levi Yitzchok the “Pe’er (glory) of Israel,” a term the Gemara associates with the Tefillin (Berakhos 11a). Accordingly, when Reb Levi Yitzchok undertook a difficult journey (I seem to remember that this journey was to raise charity for pidyon sh’vuyim, but I haven’t located a source for this), Rabbi Nachman asked to have his Tefillin checked. (See Chayei Moharan, #270; also see ##533 and 599 re. Rabbi Nachman’s great esteem for the Berditchover Rov.)

Reb Noson writes that Lesson 67 in the second half of Likutey Moharan alludes to the Berditchever Rov’s passing – of which Rabbi Nachman was aware b’ruach hakodesh before the sad news came to Breslov. (See Chayei Moharan, # 45; Sichos HaRan #196.)

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok passed away on the 25th of Tishrei, 5570 (1809), a year before Rabbi Nachman’s passing, and is buried in the old Jewish cemetery in Berditchev. At that time, it was reported that a pillar of fire was seen accompanying his bier. Upon hearing this, Rabbi Nachman remarked, “Whoever has eyes in his head will see that on the day Rabbi Levi Yitzchok died, a great darkness descended upon the world…” (Sichos HaRan #197). His holy grave site is still visited by thousands of Jewish pilgrims throughout the year. Zekhuso yagen aleinu v’al kol Yisrael, amen.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

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.

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)


Ushpizin

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, October 7, 2019

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. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Rabbi Elazar Mordechai Kenig on "The Rebbe's Rosh Hashanah"



Translated and summarized by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

Rosh Hashanah and Purifying the Mind

In elaborating on this issue, Reb Elazar connected two lessons from Likkutei Moharan. First we will present these teachings, followed by Rav Kenig’s explanations and remarks.

Likkutei Moharan I, 61:7:
This is why people travel for Rosh Hashanah to the tzaddikim. Rosh Hashanah is the day of judgment for the entire year. Each person comes with his holiness and his tzimtzumim (constrictions) to the tzaddik of the generation. He is the paradigm of the Holy of Holies, the paradigm of the Foundation Stone. This reflects the verse, "For unto God are the pillars of the earth; He has founded the world upon them" (I Samuel 2:8). These are the tzaddikim, upon whom the world was founded (Yoma 38b). Through this [i.e. by traveling to the tzaddikim], all harsh judgments are mitigated − through the aspect of the Foundation Stone, mentioned above [i.e., through the Sekhel HaKollel, the Universal or Collective Mind; see the original discourse at length].

Likkutei Moharan II, 94:
As for the reason why people travel to the tzaddikim for Rosh Hashanah, this is because the main “sweetening” of harsh judgments is accomplished only by the sanctification and purification of one's thoughts, for this is their source. "Everything is rectified in thought" (Zohar II, 254b). However, it is only possible to attain a pure mind through hiskashrus, that is, by spiritually binding oneself to the tzaddikim. Citing the verse "Then Moshe took the bones of Yosef" (Exodus 13:19), the Zohar explains that Moshe is the aspect of the mind, while Yosef is the aspect of tzaddik. That is, there can be no perfection of the mind except through hiskashrus to the tzaddikim. Rosh Hashanah is the source of judgments (dinim) for the entire year. A person must purify his thoughts in order to mitigate these judgments. This is why people travel to the tzaddikim: in order to attain purity of thought.

Rav Kenig explains:

The mitigating of all harsh judgments comes through chokhmah (wisdom) or sekhel (intellect / mind / consciousness). Thus, implicitly the avodah of Rosh Hashanah is that everyone should "come with his mind" (the terminology of Likkutei Moharan II, 94)—that is, one must guard the mind, and mitigate harsh judgments by purifying and sanctifying one's thoughts. A person should have holy thoughts, and be careful not to dwell upon unholy thoughts (see Sichos ha-Ran 21). The Rebbe says that one should think "good thoughts," in general and in particular: that Hashem will be good to Klal Yisrael, and that Hashem will be good to us. Meh darf zehn Rosh Hashanah tzu trachten gutt − gutteh machshovos − be-klalliyus u-bi-fratiyus. For purely spiritual reasons, we should have holy thoughts on Rosh Hashanah, and guard ourselves against dwelling upon evil thoughts. However, even regarding material concerns, we should think good thoughts: that Hashem wants to show us kindness in these areas of our lives. This is what the Rebbe means by everyone "coming with his mind."

In Likkutei Moharan I, 61, section six, the Rebbe quotes the Zohar to the effect that "everything is rectified in thought." He explains that the sekhel is the source of all judgments, and there, all judgments are "sweetened," because "din (judgment) is only 'sweetened' in its source" (see Rabbi Chaim Vital, Eitz Chaim, Heikhal ha-Ketarim 13:11). Every din reflects a certain tzimtzum (constriction); every din has a corresponding sekhel that sweetens this tzimtzum. The sekhel . . . this is the main thing. This is the fundamental task: to bind one's mind to the mind of the tzaddik. The Rebbe discusses this in Likkutei Moharan I, 211, citing the verse, "And Moshe took with him the bones of Yosef," a teaching that also has a connection to Likkutei Moharan I, 61. The "perfection of daas" is attained when one comes to the tzaddik ha-emes, particularly on Rosh Hashanah, which is the day of judgment. One comes with holy thoughts, good thoughts, spiritually and materially.

[The person who had asked for clarification mentioned to Rav Kenig that that on another occasion, he had said that one must also come to the tzaddik with "yishuv ha-daas." Reb Elazar commented: "Not to be mevulbal, unfocussed and confused." Then
he added: "Vos men tutt, tutt men . . . We do what we can do. But one doesn't need to
become obsessed with this..."]

Rosh Hashanah is the time of dinim. And the sweetening of the dinim is accomplished by coming to the tzaddik, the "head of the Children of Israel," on Rosh Hashanah, in order to purify one's mind. Because "everything is rectified in thought." Thought is the highest of the three garments of the soul: thought, speech, and action. Therefore, the faculty of thought needs the greatest shemirah (guarding). As the Rambam states, sometimes a person doesn't realize that he has damaged his mind by allowing his thoughts to stray. He may think, "After all, what did I do?" However, one must know that thought is extremely potent.

Rosh Hashanah and the Combination of Souls
[Rav Kenig was asked to repeat an insight he had shared a few years previously about the combinations of letters / souls, etc., which the Rebbe discusses in Likkutei Moharan II, 8.]

We spoke about the interconnectedness of those who come to the Rebbe on Rosh Hashanah, how everyone is bound to everyone else in multiple ways. We discussed the permutations of letters and souls. These permutations and combinations represent an awesome and profound unification, beyond order and hierarchy. For example, when these permutations occur in the form of letters, the tav [which is the last of the twentytwo Hebrew letters, symbolizing the lowest level] may precede the alef [which is the first letter, symbolizing the highest level], and may even infuse the rest of the letters of the alphabet with vitality. Likewise, at the level of souls, the smallest may energize the loftiest souls, in keeping with the verse, "And they receive from one another…" (Siddur; Targum Yonasan on Isaiah 6:3).

True, there is a hierarchy of souls, as we see from Likkutei Moharan I, 13 ("souls great and small"), and various other lessons. However, these new configurations become possible due to the intense love and unification of the souls that come to the tzaddik – to the point that the distinction between the alef and the tav, "greater souls" and "lesser souls," is entirely forgotten and disappears.

Leaving Eretz Yisrael to Go to the Tzaddik
Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz writes in his Amaros Tehoros: "According to what we may understand from Likkutei Moharan II, 67, the holiness of the Beis ha-Mikdash depends upon the tzaddik, whose light shines into it. Therefore, we must mourn the passing of the tzaddik all the more sorrowfully. Concerning this, my grandfather, the Rav of Tcherin, of blessed memory, states in his Zimras ha-Aretz that in these times, after the destruction of the Holy Temple, and especially after the passing of the tzaddikim, the entire holiness of Eretz Yisrael and Yerushalayim is damaged and concealed. Although they are aspects of the tzaddik − even the Western Wall, which is an aspect of the Foundation Stone [being a remnant of the Beis ha-Mikdash] − nevertheless, as long as they remain in a state of destruction, their entire holiness is damaged and hidden. This holiness devolves from the paradigm of the 'beginning of the year,' as the verse states: 'The watchful eyes of Hashem are there from the beginning of the year until the end of the year…' (Deuteronomy 11:12). − 'eyes' specifically; for [the 'eyes'] are the tzaddikim."

[Translator: The Rebbe, ad loc., relates the tzaddikim to the "eyes of the congregation" (Numbers 15:24). He also relates the eyes to the Beis ha-Mikdash, which is called "the desire of your eyes" (Ezekiel 24:16). The verse from Deuteronomy connects Rosh Hashanah and Eretz Yisrael. Thus, the holiness of Eretz Yisrael and Yerushalayim is contingent on the Rosh Hashanah of the tzaddik.]

Rav Kenig explains:

That we are still in a state of exile is readily apparent from the words of the Shemoneh Esreh ("VeYerushalaim Irkha") and Birkhas ha-Mazon ("U’venei Yerushalayim"), as well as the nusach of "Nachem," which we recite on Tisha be-Av. The holiness of Eretz Yisrael is still hidden and concealed. Therefore, to rectify this, we must go to the tzaddik for Rosh Hashanah, even if we live in Eretz Yisrael. This is because the tzaddik shines the light of holiness into the Holy Temple, from which the holiness of all Eretz Yisrael emanates, as the Rebbe states. Therefore, those who argue that it is unnecessary or even wrong to leave Eretz Yisrael in order to go to Uman for Rosh Hashanah are in error. The opposite is true. Our love of Eretz Yisrael and yearning for its rebirth mandates that we travel to the tzaddik for Rosh Hashanah.

"In the Merit of Righteous Women"It is a great sacrifice for those women who make it possible for their husbands and sons to leave home and travel to Uman for Rosh Hashanah − especially since this is a Yom Tov, and many of them take upon themselves the extra burden of caring for the rest of their children alone. These women have a major share in all of the tikkunim of the tzaddik, and their merit is very great. They can be assured that when their husbands return home, they will bring back with them abundant shefa', both materially and spiritually.

"Le'eilah, Le'eilah / Beyond, Beyond"
It is customary to engage in various spiritual preparations before Rosh Hashanah, and to make good resolutions for the coming year. These things are most praiseworthy. However, the main tikkunim of Rosh Hashanah are those that the tzaddik uniquely accomplishes. These are on a completely different plane than our efforts—incomparably so. In fact, it is the power of the tzaddik that enables us to do whatever we do. Similarly, one may experience a great his'orerus (awakening) when one goes to the Rebbe's tziyun, or participates in the prayer services with thousands of others. These are surely experiences that we should treasure. However, we should know that the level on which the tikkunim of the tzaddik take place are far, far beyond what we can experience—even those experiences that we take to be the spiritual highpoints of our lives.

A Few Rosh Hashanah Teachings


We are posting the first few Rosh Hashanah teachings included in the BRI "user's guide" to the annual Breslov kibbutz (gathering) in Uman, "Uman, Uman, Rosh Hashanah." The book may be purchased online here

These translations were gleaned from Rabbi Nachman Goldstein of Tcherin's anthology "Otzar HaYirah."

Building the House of Prayer
Reb Noson explains why we spend so much time engaged in prayer at the beginning of the year, basing his ideas on certain profound kabbalistic concepts. The sefirah of Tiferet (Beauty), corresponds to the partzuf, or interrelated group of sefirot, known as Z’er Anpin (Small Face), and represents the masculine-creative principle; while the sefirah of Malkhut(Kingship) represents the feminine-receptive principle. These two principles also correspond to Adam and Eve. When out of harmony with each other,Z’er Anpin and Malkhut are like Adam and Eve when they were first created as Siamese twins. When Z’er and Malkhut in accord with one another, they are like Adam and Eve after they were separated and subsequently reunited in marriage. The perfection of Malkhut is the goal of creation. Then we will all perceive the Creator “face to face,” and the spirit of love and peace will fill the universe.

All of our efforts during these days, from Rosh Hashanah until Shemini Atzeret, are for the sake of Malkhut (Kingship) – to “build” Malkhut into a complete partzuf (“face,” or structure) and bring about her coupling with Z’er Anpin, as described in the mystical kavannot (intentions) of the ARI. That is, all of our intentions during these days is to “build” the edifice of prayer, to lift her up from her fallen state.

For at present, prayer, which corresponds to King David and Malkhut, has fallen from her proper station. As our Sages state: “K’rum zulut liv’nei adam . . . when vileness (zulut) is exalted by mankind (Psalms 12:9) – these are matters that stand in the heights of the universe, yet people belittle them (mezalzelin, a word-play on zulut). And what is this? Prayer” (Berakhot 6b).

This is the focal point of all our exertions during these days: to elevate prayer, which is the aspect of Malkhut, and build a complete spiritual structure. (52)

Marriage of the Sun and Moon
In this teaching, Reb Noson alludes to Rebbe Nachman’s instruction that we should turn the Torah we have studied into prayers, especially duringhisbodedus (secluded meditation) (Likutey Moharan I, 25). This practice becomes a “min-Rosh Hashanah,” whenever we engage in it during the year.

The sun and moon correspond to Moses and David, which in turn correspond to the sefirot of Tiferet (Beauty) and Malkhut (Kingship), as well as Torah and prayer. Years are counted according to the sun, while months are counted according to the moon. Therefore, Rosh Hashanah, which falls on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the month, represents the fusion of the sun and moon. That is, they become equivalent to one another, in keeping with the principle that “the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun” (Siddur, Kiddush Levanah; cf. Sanhedrin 42a). This is accomplished by our building the edifice of prayer to completion – through turning the Torah we have learned into prayers, and by praying that our lives be wholly devoted to fulfilling the Torah. (55)

Cutting Off Falsehood
Underlying this teaching is the concept that God is the source of truth (see Shabbat 55a; Likutey Moharan I, 51). By our coronation of the Supreme King of Kings on Rosh Hashanah, we prevent falsehood from insinuating itself into our lives, and thus create a climate of peace. 

On Rosh Hashanah, which is the first of the year, we strive to nullify the paradigm of falsehood at its very source. This is accomplished by our revealing the “head of truth (rosh ha-emet)” which is manifest on Rosh Hashanah. This nullifies all strife; for most conflicts and dissenting opinions are over the truth. Each person asserts his viewpoint and says, “This is the truth!” The reason for all this is that we have not cut off falsehood at its root. Thus, it is possible to fall into grave error afterwards, and exchange falsehood for truth and truth for falsehood; as the verse states, “Woe unto those who say unto evil that it is good…” (Isaiah 5:20). All the conflicts in the world come from this.

Therefore, on Rosh Hashanah and the Ten Days of Penitence when we engage in cutting off falsehood at its root, we nullify all strife, and peace and unity prevail. Everything returns to the state of “Before Creation” [when all existed within the Infinite One]. On that plane, everything is entirely good and entirely one.

This is why we must forgive one another before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – so that abounding peace and unity should extend to the entire Jewish people. (114)

The Shofar of Liberation
This teaching reflects Rebbe Nachman’s tale, “The Seven Beggars”; in particularly, the section that presents the story of the Fourth Day, concerning the Beggar with the Crooked Neck. His deficiency, like those of the other holy beggars, is actually the indicator of his greatest spiritual quality – in this case his breath. The Beggar with the Crooked Neck refuses to exhale and thus add to the impure air of the “This World,” but directs his breath exclusively to the “World to Come.” This denotes not only the life of the hereafter, but the transcendent realm, which may be experienced here and now.

The shofar is an aspect of the World to Come. For it is necessary to twist one’s neck away from the vapors of this lowly world, and to direct all of one’s breath into the shofar, which is an aspect of the World to Come. That is, one must not exhale as much as a single breath into this world. Rather, all of one’s breath must enter the shofar, which is an aspect of the World to Come, so that everything will be bound solely to the ultimate goal and incorporated into the World to Come. In practical terms: the main thing is to separate oneself entirely from the vanities [havalim, which also can mean “breaths”] of this world; rather, all of one’s breaths should be those of Torah and prayer, bound to the World to Come.

This applies especially to Rosh Hashanah, which is the first of the Ten Days of Penitence. For this is the essence of repentance – that through the mitzvah of sounding the shofar we may imbue ourselves with the power of the true tzaddikim. They attained such lofty levels that they could praise themselves for never having breathed a single breath into this world. And in their power, we, too, can succeed in desisting from all mundane breaths and bind all of our breaths to the World to Come, which is the aspect of the shofar. (125)

Uniting the Two Songbirds
In the above-mentioned tale of the Seven Beggars, the Beggar with the Crooked Neck asserts that he has the most wondrous voice, for which claim he has the approbation of the Land of Music. He challenges the sages of this land to mimic the voices of two songbirds, and thus bring them together – but only the Beggar with the Crooked Neck can succeed. These songbirds corresponds to the two winged Keruvim (angels) that hover over the Ark in the Holy Temple, and which are the channel for prophecy. The unification of the Holy One, blessed be He, and the Shekhinah, which Reb Noson mentions below, corresponds to the unification of the sefirot ofTiferet and Malkhut.

The shofar is the aspect of the holy spirit of enlightenment (ruach ha-kodesh), which comes forth from the space between the two Keruvim (i.e., the winged angelic forms that sheltered the Holy Ark). This is the source of all holy sounds; as the verse states, “And he heard the sound… between theKeruvim” (Numbers 7:89). Therefore, by of the sound of the shofar -- [which is the very essence of all sounds] -- we elicit the sound that unites the twoKeruvim.

This is the unification of the Holy One, blessed be He, and the Shekhinah, which is the gist of the mystical intentions for sounding the shofar. We must separate the sefirah of Malkhut in order for her to become united with her beloved. This is symbolized by the two Keruvim.

Thus, the shofar is the means by which all exiles are gathered together, this being the aspect of the Final Redemption. It all depends upon the twoKeruvim; for concerning exile the verse states, “Like a bird wandering from its nest, so is a man who wanders from his place” (Proverbs 27:8). However, through the shofar, this rift is healed. (126)

Love Song
In the story of the Beggar with the Crooked Neck, the unification of the two songbirds depends upon knowing how to “throw” the voice of each bird to the other. This leads to their finding one another and reuniting. All this is brought about by the Jewish people through the shofar. For the shofar is composed of all the sounds in the world, those elicited from “above to below” and “below to above.” Through it, we awaken God’s mercies, that He will have pity uponKnesset Yisrael (i.e., the collectivity of Jewish souls); and similarly, we awaken the heart of the Jewish people, so that we will return to God in truth. (127)

Making a New Start
The holy resting-places of the tzaddikim are channels for the “Throne of Glory,” for this is their inheritance. As the verse indicates, “And He endows them with a throne of glory” (I Samuel 2:8). [The souls of Israel are described as being stored up beneath the “Throne of Glory” (Zohar: Midrash Ne’elam, Chayei Sarah 125b).] Therefore, all the “places” that each of us occupies are included in these holy places, and every person can find his “place” at the graves of the tzaddikim and return to God. The light of the Omnipresent One – the “Place of the World,” which includes all places -- radiates there, making it possible for each person to find his spiritual point of origin. From there, one may begin to return to God. This is why we visit the graves of the tzaddikim on the day before Rosh Hashanah. (138)

“Head” of the Year
The beginning point is Rosh Hashanah – and from Rosh Hashanah, new life and healing issues forth to the rest of the year in its entirety. This is why Rosh Hashanah is called “rosh” (“head” or “beginning”). For there are three structures: world, year, and soul [i.e., space, time, and being]. The structure of the soul corresponds to the human form, and imbues it with life. The life-force primarily depends upon the head, which houses the brain, and the brain enlivens the entire body, right down to the toenails. For the brain is the dwelling-place of the soul, which distributes life to the rest of the body, according to the requirements of each organ. Analogously, the awesome and holy day of Rosh Hashanah is called the “head,” because it is the seat of consciousness and vitality for the entire structure of the year. It is the point at which all tikkunim (rectifications) begin, and it transmits life to all days of the year -- just as the head serves this function in the human body, and there is no organ that does not depend upon the brain. Thus, Rosh Hashanah is not only the beginning point of the year, but its animating principle which enlivens the entire structure. (145)

The Secret of Selichot-Night
In Likutey Halakhot, Hilkhot Matanah 5:18-20, Reb Noson expounds upon the subject of the “lost crowns” of each Jew, corresponding to the declaration, “We will do, and we will hear [or ‘understand’]” (Exodus 24:7). These crowns represent the transcendent spiritual perceptions that we were granted at Mount Sinai, and which will be restored to us in the Messianic Era.

It is customary to recite Selichot upon the conclusion of Shabbos – as we say, “After the departure of the Day of Rest, we first approach You…” – because we could never approach God to ask for forgiveness, given our many sins, were it not for the power of the holy Shabbat.

On Shabbat, the “crowns” we lost are transferred to the true tzaddik, who is an aspect of Moses. These are the two crowns of spiritual perception every Jew received when we declared: “Na’aseh v’nishma, we shall do and we shall hear” (Exodus 24:7). Due to the sin of the Golden Calf, we lost these crowns and they were given to Moses (Shabbat 88a).

However, the true tzaddik reveals to us the “secret” of God’s love: that God wishes to return these crowns to us as a gratuitous gift. The way this is made known to us is through the Shabbat, which similarly is called a “good gift” (Shabbat 10a). Knowing that in truth we have not been rejected, we will renew our love and yearning for God, thus eliciting further expressions of divine love; which in turn elicits increased love and yearning from our side, etc.

As a result, the most wondrous sublime loving-kindness is transmitted anew from one year to the next, for God’s loving-kindness, being gratuitous, is the essence of the “good gift.” Through this, God’s forgiveness becomes manifest, as the verse indicates, “Please forgive . . . according to the abundance of Your loving-kindness” (Numbers 14:19). (178)