Monday, November 19, 2018

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!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Rebbe Nachman on Vaccination

By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

We present this selection from Rabbi Greenbaum’s work because it relates to the current crisis in the Orthodox Jewish world concerning the issue of vaccination. This excerpt is part of a larger discussion of Rebbe Nachman’s largely negative view of the medical world of his day.

It is undeniable that medical knowledge and expertise have expanded explosively since the end of the 18th century, and they continue to grow. Given that Rebbe Nachman’s critique of doctors is largely founded on their lack of understanding of the workings of the body, it is fair to ask whether his polemic was directed primarily against the primitive medicine of his time or whether it would still apply today.

Nowhere in Rebbe Nachman’s writings is there an explicit statement indicating that his warnings against doctors were restricted to his own time and place and would not apply if medical knowledge were to advance significantly. In fact, we see that Rebbe Nachman took a skeptical view of the growth of medical knowledge: “He said that there has already been so much research into medicine that the experts now know absolutely nothing, because after so much research they see that it is impossible to establish the truth” (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #50). It is significant that although Rebbe Nachman had always advised his followers to avoid doctors, his warnings became stronger than ever after his trip to Lemberg, whose Austrian-trained doctors were then among the most advanced in Europe.

On the other hand, there is one statement by Rebbe Nachman that places all his warnings against doctors into a very different light –a statement that provides a basis for those who wish to argue that his warnings simply do not apply to contemporary medicine. This is his statement urging his followers to have their children vaccinated against smallpox. This disfiguring and often fatal disease was then prevalent throughout Europe and Asia. A primitive form of inoculation had been in use for some time in Turkey, and spread to the rest of Europe in the 1720’s. However, it was not without its dangers, and the best that most people could do when there was an outbreak of smallpox was to flee.

It was not until the 1790’s that the English country physician Edward Jenner observed that those who had been infected with cowpox did not become infected with smallpox. In 1796 he performed the first vaccination on a young boy, and found that, despite the boy’s subsequent exposure to smallpox, he did not become infected. Knowledge of the new technique spread rapidly throughout Europe, and immunization against smallpox soon became a standard medical procedure. At first it was a subject of heated controversy within the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, but in 1804 a Dr. Shimon of Cracow printed a broadsheet entitled “A New Remedy,” in which he encouraged all Jews to have their children vaccinated as a preventive measure. Within a short time, hundreds of Jewish children were being successfully vaccinated, including those of leading rabbis and Torah scholars (Sefer HaBrit I, 17:2).

In the midst of this controversy, Rebbe Nachman came out in favor of vaccination in the strongest terms:

“Every parent should have his children vaccinated within the first three months of life. Failure to do so is tantamount to murder. Even if they live far from the city and have to travel during the great winter cold, they should have the child vaccinated before three months” (Avaneha Barzel p.31 #34).

Rebbe Nachman’s championship of vaccination is clear proof that his opposition to doctors and medicine was in no way bound up with some kind of retrogressive attitude of suspicion towards modernity and innovation per se. Here was a newly-discovered technique with a proven power to prevent a dangerous disease, and within a matter of a few years Rebbe Nachman came out emphatically in favor—Jenner first discovered vaccination in 1796, and Rebbe Nachman’s (undated) statement must have been made some time before his death in 1810.

Strictly speaking, vaccination is not so much a remedy as a preventive measure. Rebbe Nachman’s powerful endorsement seems to imply that he would have been no less in favor of tried and tested measures for preventing other diseases –unlike the Ramban, who says that “when the Jewish People are in a state of spiritual perfection... they have no need of medical procedures even as precautionary measures.” As we will see later, Rebbe Nachman himself saw his healing pathway of faith and prayer as the most powerful form of preventive medicine. Nevertheless, from his endorsement of vaccination, we can infer that Rebbe Nachman would not have been opposed to actual preventive medical techniques where they had proven their effectiveness.

A Biblical Generation Gap

Based on Likutey Moharan I, 10
Dovid Sears

When Yaakov Avinu disguises himself in his brother Esav’s garments to receive his father’s blessings, Yitzchak Avinu exclaims, “Behold, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that Hashem has blessed!” (Genesis 27:27). Only then does he bestow his blessings. What is the connection between the field and the blessings? Why does this exclamation immediately precede the transmission of these all-important—and irrevocable— spiritual gifts?

There are several connections with this story and the paradigm of the field. First of all, Esav is described as an ish sadeh, “man of the field” (Genesis 25:27). Yitzchak, too, is associated with the field, because it was his custom to pray in the fields, as the commentaries state in connection with his first meeting with his future wife, Rivkah (Rashi, Malbim, et al. on Genesis 24:63: “And Yitzchak went out to supplicate in the field…”). This suggests a spiritual affinity between Yitzchak and Esav—despite the fact that the father was a tzaddik and the son an evildoer. Both are connected to the field and the outdoors, whereas Yaakov is described as “a simple man, dwelling in tents” (Genesis 25:27). This may be why Yitzchak apparently favored Esav: perhaps it was easier for him to relate to another “man of the field.”

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev discusses the differences between Yaakov and the other Patriarchs in Likutey Moharan I, 10 (section 3). Citing the Gemara (Pesachim 88a), he states that Avraham called the future site of the Holy Temple a “mountain,” because this conformed to his mode of divine service; Avraham sought Hashem my separating himself from the rest of the world. Yitzchak called the same place a “field,” because he was able to bring the divine light a little closer to the ordinary things of this world. However, Yaakov called it a “house,” because he was able to reveal Godliness even on the most mundane level.

Because of these three distinct types of avodah, each of the Patriarchs seems unlike the others. However, despite their apparent differences, they represent three stages in one process, three parts of one whole. This is borne out by the rest of the biblical narrative, which tells how Yaakov’s children, the future Bnei Yisrael, became the sole bearers of the monotheistic legacy of all three Patriarchs, ultimately teaching it to the rest of the world.

Yet when one is in the middle of a process, it is hard to understand what is really going on. Therefore, it was unclear to Yitzchak that the son who would bear his torch was not Esav, the “man of the field” like himself, but the son who seemed so different than both himself and his iconoclastic father, Avraham: the “dweller in tents,” Yaakov.

His very name alludes to his divine mission. “Yaakov” is related to ekev, the heel of the foot, because it would be the task of Yaakov and his descendants to draw down the divine light to the lowest levels, bringing the world to perfection. Perhaps this is why, upon realizing that Yaakov had tricked him, his father exclaimed, “And indeed he shall be blessed!” (Genesis 27:33). At that moment, he understood that his spiritual mission would be fulfilled through the son who represented the next stage in the process of revelation: Yaakov, who would soon receive his prophetic vision on the site of the future Temple, and whose descendants would build the “house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7).

Rabbi Rosenfeld Yahrtzeit

11 Kislev is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld, zal, the pioneer of Breslov kiruv (outreach) in America.

Born in Gydinia, Poland, Reb Zvi Aryeh traced his ancestry back to Reb Aharon (d. 1845), who was the Rav of Breslov and a member of Rebbe Nachman’s inner circle. During the Russian Revolution, his father Reb Yisrael Abba Rosenfeld (1882-1947) saw part of his family murdered by the Bolsheviks. He escaped to Poland, where Zvi Aryeh was born, and emigrated to America with his family in 1924, settling in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. As a child, Zvi Aryeh attended Rabbenu Chaim Berlin elementary school. After finishing high school at Yeshivah Torah Vodaath, he attended the Beis Yosef-Novhardok Yeshivah, where he learned under the legendary Rav Avraham Yaffen and received semichah at age twenty-three, after completing the study of Shas for the second time.

Two years later, his father passed away, and Reb Zvi Aryeh assumed responsibility for some of his father’s charitable obligations. He also began to correspond with the preeminent Breslover elder in Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz (who was already over eighty years old); and in 1949 he made the first of approximately fifty trips to the Holy Land in order to visit his revered mentor. Reb Avraham instilled in the young American Chassid the passionate drive to disseminate Rabbi Nachman’s teachings in America.

For most of his life Rabbi Rosenfeld worked as a melamed, spending fifteen years teaching in Rabbi Yechezkel Kahana’s Shaarei Tefilah synagogue and talmud torah, where he brought countless students from non-observant or minimally observant families to Yiddishkeit. A group of youthful Breslovers soon began to form around him, most of whom (although not all) were baalei teshuvah or from the "Modern Orthodox" world. Some parents were encouraging to their children and grateful to Rabbi Rosenfeld; others were hostile to their children’s new-found religiosity. More than one student endured beatings from an irate father for refusing to eat non-kosher food with the rest of the family, and even Rabbi Rosenfeld was physically threatened on several occasions, but refused to be intimidated.

Rabbi Rosenfeld trained both of Rabbi Yechezkel Kahana’s sons for semichah: Rabbi Meir Kahana (1932-1990), HY”D, who later founded the Jewish Defence League (JDL), and (yibadel bein chaim l’chaim) Rabbi Nachman Kahana of Jerusalem, a prominent Torah educator in Eretz Yisrael and author of “Mei Menuchos” on Tosefos. He also was friendly with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), and it is said that for a time the two rabbis studied together b’chavrusa. (This is a point which needs further investigation.)

Aside from giving shiurim to his talmidim in all areas of Torah, Rabbi Rosenfeld collected substantial funds for the Breslov Yeshivah on Rechov Meah Shearim in Jerusalem, and sponsored the publication of Rabbi Nachman’s works in Hebrew. He also initiated the translation of the Rebbe’s seforim to English, beginning in the early 1970s with Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s translation of Sichos HaRan, “Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom,” which he edited. In addition, he raised charity for poor families in the Holy Land, while living a meager existence with only a melamed’s salary to support his family.

During the 1960s and 1970s he led some of the first trips to the Rebbe’s grave site in Uman since the Stalinist destruction of Jewish religious life there, and planted in the hearts of his talmidim a profound sense of connection to the Rebbe’s Tziyun. One of his talmidim, Mr. Stan Kopel, sponsored a major part of the rebuilding of the Rebbe’s Tziyun in Rabbi Rosenfeld’s memory.


In addition to his sons Rabbi Yisrael Abba and Reb Shmuel Eliyau (may he have a speedy refu’ah sheleimah), who are both Breslover Chassidim, Rabbi Rosenfeld's talmidim include his sons-in-law: Rabbi Chaim Kramer, prolific author and director of the Breslov Research Institute, and Rabbi Nasan Maimon, director of the Jerusalem-based Breslov World Center (more on both organizations below). Other talmidim include Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Gottlieb of Ramat Beit Shemesh, known for his highly original in-depth shiurim in Likkutei Moharan, who now teaches in a Breslov Kollel in Beitar Illit, Israel; Rabbi Gedaliah Fleer, whose tells the story of his pioneering youthful trips to Uman during the 1960s in "Against All Odds"; the late Rabbi Leibel Berger, who was a pillar of the Borough Park Breslov community and later worked as a travel agent and organizer of pilgrimages to Uman; the late Reb Shlomo Fried, founder of Nesia Travel (now managed by his wife, Mrs. Miriam Fried, who specializes in arranging trips to kivrei tzaddikim); and Rabbi Shlomo Goldman, for many years one of the outstanding teachers of Likkutei Moharan in America, who now shares his wealth of Torah knowledge with talmidim in Yerushalayim.

Some of these individuals went on to learn from other teachers in Eretz Yisrael. For example, Rabbi Chaim Kramer also studied with Rabbi Elyah Chaim Rosen (1899-1984); Rabbi Nasan Maimon was close with Rabbi Michel Dorfman (1911-2006); and Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Gottlieb and Reb Shlomo Fried studied with Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig (1921-1980).

Rabbi Rosenfeld also reached out to Sefardim, and due to his efforts there are quite a few Sefardic-American Breslovers in Deal, NJ, and in Flatbush (plus more recently in Montreal and Toronto, Canada, although not through any connection to Rabbi Rosenfeld). There are various Sefardic leaders in America, Canada, and Eretz Yisrael, who have succeeded in combining the Rebbe's teachings and different aspects of Sefardic culture, much as Polish and Hungarian Chassidim succeeded in doing the same from their points of view.

During his early years, Rabbi Rosenfeld studied with Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz on his visits to Eretz Yisrael, and after the latter’s death on 20 Elul 5715 / 1955, with Rabbi Elyah Chaim Rosen, head of the Breslov Yeshivah in Jerusalem.

When he was diagnosed as terminally ill during the summer of 5738 / 1978, Rabbi Rosenfeld settled his affairs and moved to Jerusalem. A father figure to his students, he was visited by many of them during his final months. Often they would sit at his bedside and read the Gemara, Zohar, or Likkutei Moharan, while he would interject various insights from time to time. Rabbi Rosenfeld passed away at age 56 on 11 Kislev 5739 / 1978.

In 2017, the Breslov Research Institute published the first volume of a series of essays on various topics based on Rabbi Rosenfeld's lectures: "Rabbi Nachman's Soul: An In-Depth Commentary on Sichot HaRan." This ground-breaking book is available through BRI's website, Moznaim Distributors and various Judaica stores.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

JCC Manhattan–Rebbe Nachman and You: Contemplative Writing from the Soul

Join Breslov Research Institute, BreslovCampus and BRI Women’s Chaya Rivka Zwolinski for a two-part workshop at the JCC Manhattan–Makom Center for Jewish Spirituality
Dates: Tuesday, Nov 06, 2018 and Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018
Time: 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
REGISTER ONLINE or CALL 646-505-5708 to register or for additional information. Registrations are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Are you a curious blogger or journal writer, a beginner or published author, or just interested in getting to know more about yourself? Have you ever wanted to write from a deeper place inside you? Nourished by the hidden wellsprings of ancient Jewish wisdom, Rebbe Nachman’s stories are enchanting, dramatic, at times even amusing. But most of all they are elixirs that reveal and heal the soul. In this two-part workshop, we’ll take key concepts from these stories for writing prompts, and then write in your choice of several genres, such as narrative essay or memoir, poetry, lists, expository essay or free-form journaling, and more. Be inspired and discover new aspects of self.
Chaya Rivka Zwolinski teaches the wisdom of the renowned Chassidic master Rebbe Nachman live as well as online at and; blogs for; is co-author of Therapy Revolution (HCI), and The Parent-Child Dance (Feldheim) and other books.
REGISTER ONLINE or CALL 646-505-5708
Registrations are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Please contact the JCC Registration Desk at 646.505.5708 for additional information.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

“Adir Ayom vi-Nora”: The Story Behind a Breslov Melody

From Otzar Nachmani, Vol. I, sec. 64
Collected Talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein, zatzal
Translated by Dovid Sears (unedited)
In honor of the yahrtzeit of my grandfather Yitzchak Yaakov ben Chanokh Zundel, a”h
20 Marcheshvan (niftar 5714 / 1953)

“Adir Ayom vi-Nora”: The Story Behind a Breslov Melody

Our master, Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz (circa 1862-1955), of blessed memory, usually used to teach Lesson 27 (“R’tzitza”) from Likutey Moharan, Part II, during the shaloshudes meal of Shabbos Shirah. At the end of the lesson, the Rebbe cites the verse, “Va-yar batzar lahem bi-sham’o es rinasam … And He looked upon their distress when He heard their cries (rinasam, which can also mean ‘their songs’)” Psalms 106:44)—on which the Rebbe remarks that when there is a harsh heavenly decree on the Jewish people or misfortune befalls us, due to a hostile nation, G-d forbid, it is beneficial to sing a melody of that hostile nation. Reb Avraham would then tell the story of Rabbi Ephraim b’Reb Naftali (circa 1800-1883), of blessed memory, who personally went through such misfortune and saw for himself how singing such a melody saved his life.

After making aliyah from Uman, Reb Ephraim nevertheless used to travel from Eretz Yisrael back to Uman for the annual Breslov Rosh Hashanah gathering, and then return again to Jerusalem. (It is known that he did so nineteen times.) While he was aboard the ship, sitting in a corner engaged in Torah study and prayer, a group of Arabs began to pester him, asking that he join their dancing and sing a melody for them—something with which they could have a good laugh, according to their hearts’ desire. It would be especially entertaining if this elderly Jew, graced with a long white beard and peyos, were to dance and sing for them. This would provide them with an object of laughter and derision well suited to their taste for wildness and folly. However, Reb Ephraim paid no attention to them and simply went on with what he was doing. On the holy Shabbos, while he sang the zemiros, they continued to disturb him, insisting that he sing a melody for them. But he adamantly refused. What did he have to do with these Arabs and their melodies? 

However, when Motza’ei Shabbos arrived and he began to sing the zemiros of Melaveh Malkah, they fell upon him again and would not leave him alone. In their insolence they began to pressure him, and finally started pulling him by the beard and bullying him. He saw that he was in serious trouble, and that they might do him harm—or worse. (Sometimes Arabs would work themselves up into such fervor during their dances that they would pick up their swords and spears and become violent.) Therefore, when he came to the song “Adir Ayom vi-Nora (Mighty One, Tremendous and Wondrous),” he suddenly remembered the Rebbe’s advice and thought to himself, “The time has come to put this into practice!” Since the Arabs were singing many songs, he had a chance to learn one of their melodies, a few parts of which expressed longing and yearning. However, he didn’t understand the words to this melody. So he began to sing it to these Hebrew lyrics. And in their mirth, the Arabs began to sing along with him and dance in front of him, making all sorts of loud and strange sounds, as was their wont. Reb Ephraim too began to cry out and sing, “Hein atah tikvasi, vi-liyeshu’asekha kivisi … behold, You are my hope, and Your deliverance I await! … mi-pachad le-hatzili, nahaleini le-zion kodesh gorali … from terror, save me! Lead me to Zion, my holy destiny!” Thus did he scream with all his might, again and again—“nahaleini le-zion kodesh gorali … Guide me to Zion, my holy destiny!”—according to their melody. He sensed that a certain awe and dread had fallen upon them from his screaming these words; but he continued until his strength was spent. Then he returned to his berth. From then on, they avoided him and never set a finger on him again, until they all disembarked from the ship. He reached his destination in peace, whole in his body, whole in his money, and whole in his Torah, in the merit of the Rebbe’s advice.

In commemoration of this miracle, Reb Ephraim began to sing these lyrics to the Arab melody regularly. Even in Uman, when he went there for Rosh Hashanah, he used to sing it together with Reb Nachman Tulchiner, of blessed memory [who took responsibility for all Rosh Hashanah arrangements after Reb Noson’s passing, and led the Musaf service]; for he always stayed with Reb Nachman Tulchiner. And afterward, the tune was picked up by the Breslover Chassidim.


When Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender repeated this story to me, he added that he too had heard it from [Reb Avraham Sternhartz]; however, he had also heard a different version that attributed the melody to Rabbi Mendele Litvak, of blessed memory. Yet [Reb Avraham Sternhartz] had heard directly from Reb Ephraim b’Reb Naftali that he had taken it from the Arabs, as described above. It is possible that Reb Mendele may have learned it from [Reb Ephraim] or from Reb Nachman Tulchiner, with whom Reb Ephraim had stayed in Uman, and then sang it himself. Those who first heard it from him may have assumed that it was his original composition. Thus, there is no contradiction at all.

In any case, everyone agrees that the song “Adir Ayom vi-Nora” combined with this melody is most wondrous and a delight to the ears. For it contains many passages of passionate feeling, spiritual awakening and profound yearning for G-d. Additionally, I heard from Rabbi Hirsch Leib Lippel, of blessed memory, that many times he practiced hisbodedus in the forest, singing this melody in a loud voice in supplication to G-d. With this melody he would express all of his feelings in Yiddish: his pain and feelings of alienation, due to the Evil One, begging that he be redeemed from the evil trap into which he had fallen. And he also used to sing it on Motza’ei Shabbos Kodesh in the streets of Moscow, with thunderous loud cries.

The chassid, Rabbi Dovid, son of the Rav, Rabbi Yechiel Yuda Schlessinger, of blessed memory, who was the son-in-law of the illustrious Rabbi Velvel Mintzberg, of blessed memory, chose this melody for this zemer above all the melodies that were suggested to him, in order that he could sing it during the Melaveh Malkah meal that he established here in Katamon [a section of Jerusalem], in the shtieblach. He attested that it moved him deeply, imbuing him with thoughts of teshuvah and an outpouring of the heart to G-d. Many times he would sing this melody to himself, even during the week, in order to experience a taste of deveykus and spiritual yearning.

I remember that many years ago I was in chutz la’aretz, in a certain place, for the Melaveh Malkah meal, and they honored me to sing “Adir Ayom.” When I sang for them a small part with sweetness and feeling, I saw how the eyes of many of those present filled with tears, due to the emotional power of this niggun. They asked me about the origin of this wondrous melody, and I told them the whole story, as above.

I mentioned to them that this chassid [Reb Ephraim] had been a dealer in jewlery, precious stones and precious things made of gold. However, due to his righteousness and his Torah scholarship, he was better known as a “tzaddik vi-lamdan,” as well as a God-fearing man and philanthropist. He also developed beautiful and profound chiddushim (novel insights) on the Rebbe’s teachings and authored two holy books: Likutey Even and Tefilas ha-Boker. And when such a chassid garbed with this wondrous melody the awesome words of the song “Adir Ayom vi-Nora”, which was written according to an alphabetical acrostic, and each and every word begs and entreats and cries out to the Holy One, Blessed be He, from the depth of the heart and soul over the personal and collective travail of the Jewish people and the exile of the Shekhinah—and over the coming of our Righteous Redeemer and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and ingathering of the exiles—automatically all the words sing of their own accord and pierce the depths of the soul, and awaken the heart to complete teshuvah and love of G-d, and longing and yearning “to behold the pleasantness of G-d and frequent His palace” (Psalms 27:4). Many of those present asked me at that time to repeat the zemer, again and again, as they were enraptured by the sweetness of the melody. I even requested that they record it on tape, so that they could hear it whenever they wished, but this didn’t come to pass. Blessed be the Merciful One who helped us thus far!

Friday, October 19, 2018

BRI: New Books Are Now Available!

Shabbos is coming...

And The Breslov Siddur for Shabbos and Yom Tov is here! The spirit and meaning of Shabbos come alive through the unique teachings of Rebbe Nachman, who praised Shabbos as the pinnacle of joy, blessing and closeness to God. His insights illuminate the special introductions to each prayer service, as well as short, interesting comments sprinkled throughout the siddur. Read more.

Amazing Stories of Ancient Times: Rebbe Nachman’s Stories for Young Adults

His enigmatic and mysterious tales – full of fantastic adventures, exotic locales, kings, queens, giants, pirates and paupers – describe people in pursuit of their destiny.

Amazing Stories of Ancient Times: Rebbe Nachman’s Stories for Young Adults

His enigmatic and mysterious tales – full of fantastic adventures, exotic locales, kings, queens, giants, pirates and paupers – describe people in pursuit of their destiny.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Yahrtzeit of Reb Wolf Kitzes

From R' Dovid Friedman:

12 Cheshvan is the yartzeit of Rabbi Zev Wolf Kitzis, zy'a, one of the earliest and most senior talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov. (Don’t know his father’s name) There are many stories about the two of them together. B"H I was zocheh to visit his kever many times. He has the zekhus of being buried immediately to the right of the Baal Shem Tov in Medzhibuzh. Reb Wolf Kitzis was able to prevent the rabbonim of Brod from placing a cherem (ban of excommunication) on the Baal Shem Tov, since he greatly impressed the Rav of Lvov, who was the final decisor. He is well known as the baal toke'a (one who sounds the Shofar) of the Baal Shem Tov -- so it is no coincidence that he passed away the week of the Torah reading "Vayera," when we read about Akeidas Yitzchok. One of the ten reasons for blowing shofar on Rosh Hashonah, given by Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon, is to remember Akeidas Yitzchok. Here are some remazim (hints):

שופר with the 4 letters is equal to זאב וואלף קיצעס זצ״ל.

בעל תוקע with the kolel is equal to רבי זאב וואלף קיצעס with the 4 words.

עקידת יצחק with the 9 letters and kolel is equal to רבי זאב וואלף קיצעס זצ״ל.

ויעקד את יצחק with the 3 words is equal to רבי זאב וואלף קיצעס זצ״ל.

איל אחר נאחז בסבך בקרניו is equal to הרבי זאב וואלף קיצעס זיע״א.

Zechuso Yogen Oleinu


PS from Dovid Sears:

Close to 30 years ago, when we lived in Providence, RI, I was part of a group that visited Jewish patients in nursing homes on Yom Tov. I'm not sure if it was on Rosh Hashanah, but I once visited an elderly man named "Kitzis" in the Jewish Home for the Aged. When I mentioned Reb Wolf Kitzis to him, the patient readily told me that he was a descendant of the Baal Shem Tov's famous disciple. We were both happy to have met each other.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Melaveh Malkah in Moscow

Otzar Nachmani, sec. 167
From the collected talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein
Translated by Dovid Sears, unedited

[Rabbi Nachman Burstein relates:]
Rabbi Hirsh Leib Lippel, zal, told me that many times he was required [by the Soviet authorities] to travel to Moscow regarding his application to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael. While there, he usually stayed with [a fellow Breslover chassid], Reb Moshe “Moskover” (whose family name was Yeruslavsky). According to the Communist regulations, it was forbidden to take into one’s home a stranger who was not a resident of Moscow. The punishment for doing so was harsh—exile to Siberia. However, Reb Moshe endangered himself with mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice) for the mitzvah of receiving guests, and did not heed the prohibition.

Reb Hirsh Leib told how on Motza’ei Shabbos, he often longed to sing the zemiros [of Melaveh Malkah, songs to bid farewell to the holy day] loudly, as was his way. However, this could not be done in Reb Moshe’s home, for fear of arousing the suspicions of the neighbors, [in particular] the Bolsheviks, who were on the lookout for strangers. Therefore, he came up with a strategy. He would go out to the street and pretend to be drunk—like the other drunks who could be found in the streets, according to their custom.

Thus, he started singing the zemiros vigorously, at the top of his lungs, to his heart’s content. Sometimes during his wanderings, he would stumble into some passerby in order to make him go away from him—because according to the law, it was forbidden to touch a drunk. Then he could sing unhampered.

Reb Hirsh Leib attested that the joy, enthusiasm and spiritual arousal he felt at that time, while singing the zemiros—especially “Adir Ayom vi-Norah”—was more precious than gold. And when he came to “Eliyahu ha-Novi,” which includes the words, “the man following whom they declared, ‘Hashem hu ha-Elokim!”—he screamed thunderously, with all his might, repeating seven times: “Hashem hu ha-Elokim! Hashem is G-d!”

He contemplated that Eliyahu was Hashem’s solitary prophet in the midst of nine hundred prophets of Baal and the Asheira [a tree dedicated to idolatry]. And now he too found himself in a street full of drunks and their drunken songs, while he alone directed his heart toward heaven, in singing songs and praises to Hashem…

[Reb Nachman Burstein adds:]
See “Yemey Moharnat” (Reb Noson’s diary), Part II, where Reb Noson describes how he and his disciple, Reb Yehudah Eliezer, while aboard the ship [bound for Eretz Yisrael], once danced along with the sailors. However, the latter celebrated with no thought as to the reason for their festivity—“whereas we, thank G-d, danced and rejoiced because of the privilege of going up to the Land of Israel, thus to recognize ‘the One who spoke and the universe came into existence.’ ” Reb Noson brings a parable from the “Toldos” [Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye], in the name of the Baal Shem Tov: “They danced out of drunken abandon…” see there.


A Teaching of the Baal Shem Tov
From Dovid Sears, “The Path of the Baal Shem Tov,” pp. 124-125

Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem, peace be upon him, taught: " ‘[And God said to Noach...] 'You shall make a light (tzohar) for the ark (teivah)’(Genesis 6:16). That is, the word (teivah) which you utter should be luminous.”

For every letter contains worlds and souls and Godliness. And they ascend and combine and unite with one another—with Godliness. Afterward, the letters unite and gather themselves together to form a word, and they effect true unifications in Godliness. One must incorporate his soul within each and every aspect [of these unifications]; then he must unify all the worlds as one. Thus, they will all ascend, bringing about great joy and delight without measure.

The verse continues, "You shall construct it with lower, second, and third [levels]" (ibid.) This alludes to worlds and souls and Godliness, as the Zohar Zohar (III, 159a) states, "There are three worlds…”

A person must listen to each word he says, for the Shekhinah, which corresponds to the World of Speech, actually speaks (Zohar III, 230a, 281b). And when the word possesses light, it comes forth shining and brings gratification to its Maker. This requires great faith (emunah), for the Shekhinah is called emunas uman, "the Work of a Craftsman” (Zohar I, 32a). But without faith, one's utterance is that of "a complainer who separates a leader” (Proverbs 16:28). [According to Rashi, the leader to whom this proverb refers is God. Thus, by not trying to pray with kavanah (concentration), one actually estranges himself from the Shekhinah.]

And to a cubit (amah) you shall finish it upward.. ." [The Hebrew word amah] suggests fear or awe (eimah). [That is, one must utter each word of prayer in a state of awe, so that it will ascend Above.] Or alternatively, one could interpret this to mean that once the word leaves his mouth, he need not remember it anymore. We cannot see the lofty place to which it ascends, just as we are unable to gaze at the sun. Thus, the verse concludes, “You shall finish it upward.” [Once it is expressed, it immediately goes upward.] How may this be accomplished? By putting yourself and your whole body into each word (Tzava’as ha-RIVaSH 75).