Monday, May 18, 2020

Shavuos


From Breslov Eikh Shehu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present, compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears (in-progress)

Shavuos Customs
Shavuos was one of the three fixed times of the year when Breslover Chassidim came to the Rebbe. Therefore, in recent years it has become common for many Breslovers travel to Uman to spend Shavuos near the Rebbe's tziyun. (However, there is no requirement to do so; the only time a Breslover Chassid is obligated to travel to Uman is for Rosh Hashanah.)

*

However, in Reb Noson’s day, his talmidim used to travel to him for Shavuos. They would try to arrive in time to conclude the counting of sefiras ha-omer together on the night of Erev Shavuos. One such occasion was Shavuos of 1834, when some eighty followers came to Reb Noson in Breslov. They prayed with such fervor that ever since, Breslover Chassidim refer to this as “der groiser Shavuos.
(See Rabbi Chaim Kramer, “Through Fire and Water,” chap. 33, pp. 366-377)

*

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender mentioned that during Reb Noson’s time, when the Breslover Chassidim who had come from far and wide counted the sefirah together on the night before Shavuos, virtually the whole city used to come to witness their fervor. This was an annual event that everyone looked forward to.
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski)

*

In the Tzefas community, most Breslover Chassidim wear a white caftan on Shavuos at night and during Shacharis-Musaf. However, they do not wear this caftan for Minchah.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchok Kenig)

*

In Tzefas, the Breslov shul is decorated with greenery, following the common minhag.
(Heard from Rabi Yitzchok Kenig. See RaMaH on Orach Chaim 494:3.)

*

The Steipler Gaon mentioned that in the Ukraine it was customary to spread grass and small twigs on the entire floor of the shul.
(Orchos Rabbenu, vol. II, Bnei Brak 1992, p. 99, sec. 7)

*

Reb Noson darshans on the minhag of eating dairy foods on Shavuos.
(See Likutey Halakhos, Birkhos ha-Torah 1; Masa U-Matan 4:6; Eruvei Techumin 5:13; Shavu’os 1:4, 2:2; Devarim ha-Yotziyim Min ha-Chai 2:2 and 7; Simanei Behemah ve-Chayah Tehorah 4:40, 46; Mezuzah 2:4)

*

In Tzefas, as in most communities, the minhag is to eat milchigs after davenning Shacharis, during the Kiddush. However, the day meal is fleishig.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig. See Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 494:3, with Mishnah Berurah; Likutey MaHaRiCH Vol. III, p. 577.)

*

Breslover Chassidim traditionally remain awake all night and recite the Tikkun Leyl Shavuos of the Arizal. In the Tzefas community, the chaburah recites the Tikkun together, and the Chassidim recite Kaddish and dance after concluding each section: Chumash, TaNaKH, Mishnayos, etc.
(See Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eytz Chaim, Sha’ar Chag HaShavuos, chap. 1; ; Kitzur SheLaH Masechtas Shavuos: Seder Leyl Shavuos.)

*

Reb Noson states that the main parts of Tikkun Leyl Shavuos are TaNaKh and Mishnayos. Although the Arizal omits the Mishnayos, the Shelah ha-Kadosh includes them.
(Likutey Halakhos, Kriyas ha-Torah 6:26)

*

Accordingly, Reb Avraham Sternhartz used to recite the Tikkun Leyl Shavuos with the Mishnayos.
(Heard from Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn)

*

In a letter to Rabbi Avraham Jacobovitch, Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz writes: “Remaining awake on the night of Shavuos gives life to all of one’s conduct for the entire year, both spiritually and physically. One should rejoice, for this is the 'wedding' of Matan Torah -- and one should rededicate himself to the study of the Rebbe’s teachings, which are a chiddush niflah, a wondrous innovation that comes from the Future World, from [the Torah of] Atika Setimah [the Hidden Ancient One], destined to be revealed in time to come…”
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Mikhtevey Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren Rabbi Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 2, p. 14; cf. Reb Noson’s description of the Rebbe’s teachings at the beginning of his Hakdamah to Likutey Moharan.)

*

The Terhovitza Maggid, a close talmid of the Rebbe and a prominent Chassidic leader in his own right, and Reb Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl, author Me’or Einayim, always used to take turns visiting each other to celebrate Shavuos. On Shavuos night, they would dance together in ecstasy all night long. When Reb Nochum grew too old and weak to continue, he sent his son Reb Mordechai of Chernobyl to the Terhovitza Maggid for Shavuos, and they, too, danced all night.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Mikhtevey Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren R’ Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 64, p. 201. From this it would seem that the two tzaddikim did not recite the Tikkun Leyl Shavuos.)

*

Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz states that on Shavuos in Uman, the Chassidim took turns dancing all through the night. Thus, one group was always reciting the Tikkun and another was always dancing.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Mikhtevey Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren R’ Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 54, p. 190; ibid. Letter 64, p. 201)

*

By contrast, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender recalled that the Breslover Chassidim in Uman recited the Tikkun Leyl Shavuos, as is customary, and then danced for a long time. On one occasion, Reb Borukh Getche’s danced with the members of his chaburah all night until it was time to get ready for Shacharis.
(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh V, 303)

*

Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn heard that in Uman, it was primarily the “ovdim” who danced at such length on Shavuos night. Most of the olam simply recited the Tikkun.

*

In the Breslov shul in the Katamon section of Yerushalayim, they used to dance after each of the three or four “kaddeishim” during the course of reading the Tikkun.
(Heard from Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn)

*

The melody for “Atah Nigleisa” that we sing on Shavuos night came from the Rebbe Reb Borukh’l of Medzhibuzh, who sang it on Shabbos evening to the words of “Eishes Chayil”—while the melody we sing to “Eishes Chayil,” Reb Borukh’l used to sing to “Atah Nigleisa.” However, the Rebbe switched them. 
(Heard from Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn)

*

Just before alos ha-shachar, it is proper to immerse in the mikveh. Kabbalistically, this mikveh represents the Fiftieth Gate, and is the source of holiness of all immersions in the mikveh throughout the year.
(Likutey Moharan I, 56:7; Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Mikhtevey Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren Rabbi Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 64, p. 201; Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Chag HaShavuos, chap. 1)

*

As mentioned above, Shavuos is one of the five times that the tzibbur davens ki-vasikin.
(Oral Tradition)

*

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender stated that throughout the Ukraine, including in Breslover communities, it was customary to omit the yotzros on the first day of Shavuos, but to recite them on the second day. In Breslov communities in Eretz Yisrael (where there is only one day of Yom Tov), yotzros are recited during chazoras ha-SHa”TZ on Shavuos.
(See Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 463)

*

In America, the Borough Park Breslov congregation does so on both days.

*

Rabbi Nachman greatly praised the medieval poem "Akdamus Milin" and the regal melody with which it is sung. This remains a highlight of the Shavuos davening in Breslover shuls today. Each stanza is sung by both the chazzan and the congregation, not by alternating stanzas, as in many other communities.
(See Sichos ha-Ran 256)

*

Reb Avraham used to sing a melody without words prior to Akdamus, and extend and embellish the stanzas with various melodic phrases as he recited them.
(Heard from Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn)

*

Reb Noson mentions the minhag followed by most congregations to recite Sefer Rus on the second day Shavuos (in chutz la’aretz).
(See Likkutei Halakhos, Birkhas ha-Shachar 5:18, 52; Kriyas Shema 5:17; Birkhas ha-Peyros 5:22; et al. This custom is mentioned in Machzor Vitry, based on a midrash in Pesikta Zutra (Midrash Rus); see Likutey Maharich III, p. 579.)

*

Reb Gedaliah told Reb Aharon Waxler that one should say “shnei se’irim le-khaper” during the Musaf of Shavuos, as in the Musaf of Rosh Hashanah.
(Heard from Rabbi Aharon Waxler. Cf. Siddur Baal ha-Tanya, Musaf shel Shalosh Regalim)

*

Shavuos is the yahrtzeit of the holy Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, and the Rebbe’s great-grandfather. Therefore, it is a custom of Chassidim in general to mention a teaching from the Baal Shem Tov, or at least to mention him on Shavuos.
(According to most mesorahs, the Baal Shem Tov passed away on the first day of Shavuos; see Siddur Arizal of Rabbi Avraham Shimshon of Rashkov, p. 298; Rabbi Yitzchok Eizik Yehudah Yechiel Safrin of Komarno, Heikhal HaBerakhah, “Ki Seitzei,” 129b; Sefer Baal Shem Tov, “Ki Savo,” in Mekor Mayim Chaim, note 12; Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch, Likutey Dibburim, Vol. III, p. 1054; Darkei Chaim vi-Shalom-Munkatch, Hil. Yom Tov, 527). 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Reb Shayale Kerestirer's Likutey Halachos



Via R' Yaakov Klein of the Five Towns, a gifted young Breslov teacher.


Reb Shayale Kerestirer's signature on his copy of Likutei Halachos. The Judaica expert who took these pictures reported that he has also seen Reb Shayale's copy of Likutei Tefillos and that it is entirely soaked with the tzaddik's tears. 

Today [2 Iyar] is the yahrtzeit of this glorious tzaddik, Reb Yeshaya ben R' Moshe Steiner. Zechuso yagein aleinu!

Monday, April 13, 2020

Acharon shel Pesach / Last Day of Pesach


From “Breslov Eikh she-Hu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present”

Like other Chassidim, Breslover Chassidim traditionally do not eat gebrokhts (matzah cooked or soaked in liquids containing water) on Pesach. However, in chutz la'aretz, gebrokhts are prepared and eaten on Acharon Shel Pesach, even in the vessels and dishes used for non-gebrokhts. Although this does not apply to Eretz Yisrael, where Shevi’i shel Pesach is the last day, something similar is observed during a leap year when Shabbos falls on Motza’ei Yom Tov. Then gebrokhts are eaten in the regular Pesach vessels and dishes, even by those who live in Eretz Yisrael.


*

The Rebbe used to go to his daughter Udel for the se’udah on Acharon shel Pesach, during which the family ate soup with kneidlakh. Once Udel served her father two kneidlakh, and he blessed her that in their merit she should have two children. This berakhah came to pass—and Udel regretted that she had not served her father more kneidlakh.
(Avanehah Barzel, sec. 43, p. 33)

*

The last meal of Acharon Shel Pesach is called the "Baal Shem Tov Se'udah," during which it is customary for a member of the group to retell the story of the Baal Shem Tov's attempted journey to the Holy Land. There is a special Breslover mesorah concerning the details of this story, preserved by oral tradition.
(Most Chassidim used to call this meal the “Baal Shem Tov Se’udah.” In the communities of Skver-Chernobyl, Skolye, and others, they still do. The Breslov nusach of the story of the Baal Shem Tov’s journey may be found in Eretz ha-Kodesh / Masa’ ha-Kodesh, Jerusalem: Toras ha-Netzach, 5758/1998; and in Yiddish in Der Otzar Fun Yiras Shomayim, Hotza’as Ben Adam, Aharon Weinstock, ed. 1992, pp. 71-87. The story was also published many years ago in Mabu’ey HaNachal. Other nus’chos of the story preserved by various Chassidic communities are presented and discussed by Rabbi Shlomo Abish, “Koros Chayav haMekoriyyim shel Rabban Shel Yisrael haBaal Shem Tov ha-Kadosh, zy ‘a,” #4, Kuntres Heichal haBaal Shem Tov, Nisan 5764 / 2004, pp. 145-152.)

*

On the Shabbos after Pesach, some are accustomed to bake a challah with the form of a key on the loaf. Some engrave this shape by pressing a key into the dough; some attach a piece of dough in this shape; and some bake an actual key in the challah. (Reb Elazar Kenig’s family attaches a piece of dough shaped like a key.)
(Erkhei Yehoshua, Perach Shoshanim 156, mentions that the Manistritcher minhag was to engrave this shape. A reason for the minhag of baking a “shlissel challoh” is offered by the Apter Rov in Ohev Yisrael, “Le-Shabbos Achar Pesach,” pp. 282-283, 330-331.)

*

Someone once complained to the Tcheriner Rov, “Purim is over, Pesach is over…” The Tcheriner Rov corrected him, replying, “Mer hobben areingenumen a Purim un a Pesach . . . We have internalized Purim and Pesach!”
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)

*

In this spirit, Reb Avraham Sternhartz would learn Likutey Moharan I, 135 (“Ki Ekakh Mo’ed”), saying, “I am taking the Yom Tov into myself!” He also used to mention that the number of this lesson (135) is be-gematria “matzah.”
(Mabu’i ha-Nachal, Kovetz 53, Nisan 5782, p. 37)

The Baal Shem Tov’s Nesia to Eretz Yisrael

Breslover Chassidim are accustomed to retell this story during the “Baal Shem Tov Se’udah,” which is the last meal of Acharon shel Pesach (AKA “ne’ilas ha-chag”). This was a common custom among many Chassidim in Europe, and a few such as the Skolye Chassidim still tell the story. This version is based on the Breslov mesorah.

Dovid Sears


Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender, the central figure in the Meah Shearim Breslov kehillah after World War II until his passing in 1989, used to retell the story every year on Acharon shel Pesach. He always said that he retold the story the way he received it personally from Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Uman, a grandson of Rebbe Nachman and a leading mashpiya during the late late 1800s-early 1900s. However, Reb Levi Yitzchok also said that once someone asked his teacher Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman if Reb Shimshon’s version was accurate. He answered, “S’iz doh nuschos ... There are many versions!” (Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn). Like all oral traditions, there are a few differences over this detail or that. Yet these differences are relatively minor.

We have put together this brief outline so that at least something will be available in English for those who wish to tell the story during the final hours of Acharon shel Pesach. This is not an “official” version, but we hope it will be good for starters.

Beginning the Journey
The Baal Shem Tov experienced intense gagu’im to travel to Eretz Yisrael—until at last the time came. (This mystical understanding of traveling to Eretz Yisrael is echoed by Rebbe Nachman’s statement, “With every step, I’m going to Eretz Yisrael,” and his teaching that “all tefillos and avodahs ascend through Eretz Yisrael.” Just as Eretz Yisrael was the goal of the Exodus from Egypt, so in a mystical sense it represents the goal of the spiritual quest of each individual and the Jewish people collectively. See the Breslov teachings in the Tcheriner Rov’s anthology, Otzar HaYirah, “Eretz Yisrael.”)

The Baal Shem Tov took his only daughter, the tzaddekes Udel, and his chassid Reb Hirsch Sofer, as companions for the journey.

It was very unusual to go to Eretz Yisrael in those days, and extremely difficult—unlike today. But he trusted in Hashem and left home with only enough money to reach the next town. (It is well-known that the Baal Shem did not keep even a small coin overnight, but lived from day to day, trusting completely in Hashem.) He was confident that Hashem would make a way for him.

(When Rabbi Shmuel Breines tells the story in the Breslov Shtibel of Borough Park, he often stresses the importance of bitachon, total reliance upon Hashem. Two sources of inspiring teachings about bitachon are Rabbi Avraham ben HaRambam’s Sefer HaMaspik: Shaar HaBitachon, or Rabbenu Bachya Ibn Paquda’s Chovos HaLevavos: Shaar HaBitachon. A quote or two from such sources can help make the story more meaningful.)

Day by day and week by week the threesome traveled from one town to the next, heading toward the port city of Istanbul on the Black Sea. Somehow the Baal Shem Tov received enough money to keep traveling, until they arrived in Istanbul on Erev Pesach.

They had neither provisions nor money for lodgings. But the Baal Shem Tov was sure that everything would work out satisfactorily. They found an inn in the Jewish quarter of the city and took lodgings on the ground floor, where the horses were stabled. Udel went to shore to wash clothes for Yom Tov, while her father and Reb Hirsch went to a nearby Beis HaMidrash.

At the same time, a wealthy childless couple from Germany arrived in Istanbul. This couple had been following the Baal Shem Tov from town to town in order to obtain his brochah, and only caught up to him now. Bi-hashgochah pratis, they wound up at the same inn, where they rented a large suite of rooms, and bought matzos, wine and food for Pesach. Then they went in search of the Baal Shem Tov. They found a Jewish girl washing clothes at the sea-shore—Udel, of course—asked her if she knew the whereabouts of the Baal Shem Tov, and learned that the Baal Shem Tov was none other than her father. Overjoyed, they took Udel back to the inn and instructed the servants to bring the possessions of the tzaddik and his daughter and disciple from the stables to their rooms upstairs.

Knowing nothing about this, the Baal Shem Tov and Reb Hirsch davened, and came back after Maariv to find everything prepared for the sedorim and for Yom Tov. The Baal Shem Tov displayed no surprise at this, but proceeded to conduct the Seder without indicating that anything unusual had happened. Only after he had completed the Seder, did the Baal Shem Tov turn to their host and hostess and declare, “I know why you came here. Know that your wish has been fulfilled, and you will have a child this year!”

However, no sooner had the words escaped his lips than the Baal Shem Tov’s face clouded over, and he closed his eyes; he was experiencing aliyas ha-neshamah, an ascent of the soul to the upper worlds. His daughter Udel had seen this before, but now she was terrified—her father seemed to be in a state of gesisah mamash, his life seemed to be hanging by a thread. In heaven, the Evil Accuser demanded: This couple had been fated to remain childless. By what right did the Baal Shem force the Ribono shel Olam to change all of creation for the sake of this man and woman? The Gemara states, “The tzaddik decrees and Hashem fulfills” (Shabbos 59b), and the Baal Shem Tov’s blessing would surely bear fruit. However, in such matters there is a price to be paid. The heavenly court ruled that in exchange, the Baal Shem Tov would lose his Olam Haboh, his place in the Afterlife.

Then Baal Shem Tov suddenly opened his eyes, the color returned to his face, and with great simchah declared, “Now I will be able to serve Hashem without any p’nia, without any thought of future reward!”

At this, the Evil Accuser insisted that the heavenly court restore his Olam Haboh—to let the Baal Shem Tov serve Hashem with such absolute selflessness was too much!

Disaster AvertedAt this point, Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman would roll up his sleeves and say, “Un in di ma’aseh iz doh noch a ma’aseh . . . And in this story there is still another story...” (Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn, in the name of Rabbi Itche Meyer Korman).

Although Baal Shem Tov’s purpose was to go to Eretz Yisrael, his journey, like all of his actions, contained many other mysteries and purposes. (See Likutey Moharan I, 42. Reb Noson adds that this is not only true of the tzaddikim, but even of ordinary Jews. Everything we do reflects Hashem’s hidden plan for creation. See Avaneha Barzel, p. 88, which is translated in “The Tree That Stands Beyond Space,” p. 57.)

The Sultan of Istanbul was a tyrant who had a special enmity toward the Jewish people. Yet the Jews had influence and power in the city, and the Sultan had to resort to underhanded means to hurt them.

On that Erev Pesach he called together his royal ministers for a secret meeting. He proposed that a pogrom be carried out the next morning, in which the mobs would be incited to kill every Jewish man, woman and child in Istanbul. His ministers were sworn to secrecy about this plan on penalty of death.

Yet one of the royal ministers was a righteous gentile and friend of the Jews. Risking his life, he hastened to warn the leaders of the Jewish community of their great peril. After discussing the matter, they decided to send emissaries to the Sultana, the widow of the previous Sultan who had treated his Jewish subjects with kindness and respect. Perhaps she could intervene. In the cover of night, the emissaries made their way through the city’s streets toward the palace of the Sultana.

Their long trek took them past the very inn where the Baal Shem Tov and his companions were concluding the Seder. Through an opened window, they could hear the Baal Shem Tov singing with fervor “Le-oseh nifla’os gedolos levado … To the One Who alone performs wonderous miracles!” One of the emissaries remarked wryly to his friend, “If that Jew only knew what we know, he wouldn’t sing those words so sweetly!”

(A contemporary Breslover, Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Bnei Brak, remembered an interesting detail here. When his father Rabbi Noson Barsky told the story, according to the version of his grandfather and namesake, Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Uman, and he described how the Baal Shem Tov sang “Le-oseh nifla’os gedolos levado,” he used to sing the well-known niggun of the Baal Shem Tov—thus demonstrating how the Baal Shem Tov actually sang these words. He did so when mentioning the song both while the emissaries were on their way to the Sultana and on their return.)

Arriving at the palace, the emissaries begged the guards for permission to obtain an audience with the Sultana, but were refused admission. Yet they persisted until the Sultana heard the racket at the door and asked who wanted to see her at such a late hour. Learning that they were representatives of the Jewish community on an urgent mission, the good-hearted Sultana admitted them and listened to their tale of impending destruction.

Given the urgency of the situation, she asked the emissaries to remain in her home while she set out in the night to intercede with her son. Arriving at the royal palace, she woke up the Sultan and announced, “Tonight your father came to me in a dream! And he revealed to me that tomorrow our family will be utterly wiped out! My heart palpitated with dread—that’s why I hurried here. We must consult the royal chronicles to see if we can find a reason for this evil fate…”

The Sultan sent for the royal record book and in his mother’s presence saw inscribed therein the slaughter of the Jewish community scheduled for the next morning. “Now, my son, I know why I had this terrible dream!” the Sultana said. “Don’t you know what happens to all those who start up with the Jews? Don’t you know what happened to Pharaoh and Haman and the rest of their enemies? You must call off this pogram, or my dream will surely come true!”

Thus, the Sultan tore up his cruel decree and only then did his mother return home to inform the emissaries of her success. As they made their way through the Jewish quarter, they passed the same inn and were surprised to hear the same man repeating the words “Le-oseh nifla’os gedolos levado.” But now he did so with the greatest merriment.

After the morning prayers, the community leaders informed the kehillah that a great miracle had occurred. Because of Hashem’s mercy, the Jews of Istanbul had been saved from certain death. In recounting the highlights of the story, they didn’t fail to mention the Jew who sang of Hashem’s miracles at the end of the Seder, and how if he had known what was going on, he wouldn’t have been able to sing.

At this, the Baal Shem Tov (still incognito) remarked, “Mir dacht zokh az der Yid mit zein zingen 'le-oseh nifla’os gedolos levado,' hott ehr mevatel geven di gezerah . . . It seems to me that by singing ‘Who alone performs wondrous miracles,’ this Jew nullified the heavenly decree.”

The Sea Voyage
On the first day of Chol HaMoed, the couple from Germany bade farewell to the Baal Shem Tov. They wished to lavish upon him various gifts in their gratitude for his brochah, but the Baal Shem Tov refused to accept anything beyond the kindness they had already shown him. Only one thing did he request—that they provide him and his companions with tickets for the next ship to Eretz Yisrael. They happily did so. And the next ship was leaving that day.

Before boarding the ship, the Baal Shem Tov told his daughter and Reb Hirsch that he had the power to go to the Holy Land in a more expedient way: he could toss his gartel on the waves of the sea, and they could walk across it to their destination. The only condition was that they would have to focus their minds on a certain Holy Name without breaking their concentration for even a second. The tzaddekes Udel answered that she was willing to do so. However, Reb Hirsch feared that he would not be able to maintain his concentration; so they traveled by ship.

The Great Storm
The ship quickly traversed the peaceful waters, among its passengers the Baal Shem Tov and his daughter and disciple. However, in the middle of their voyage, the sky suddenly darkened and a mighty storm struck. The powerful winds cast the ship on the turbulent waves, until it seemed that they were about to either capsize or be dashed to bits.

The Baal Shem Tov said, “The sea will be stilled only if I cast my writings overboard—or if my daughter is willing to take their place. Only then will the storm subside.”

There are different versions of what happened at this point. Reb Levi Yitzchak’s mesorah from Reb Shimshon Barsky was to preface this part of the story with the words: “Anderer zoggen..." ("Some say…”). Then he would go on to state that Udel agreed and was actually cast into the sea. However, with this act of mesirus nefesh, she received a heavenly communication: she was destined to have a grandson who would write “shennerer ksavim,” i.e., even greater writings than those of her father. She lifted up her hands and called to the Baal Shem Tov and told him this. Udel was immediately retrieved, and the precious manuscripts were cast into the waters.

(As a humorous aside, I heard from Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski of Williamsburg that whenever Reb Levi Yitzchok told the story and described how Udel was cast into the sea, Rabbi Nochum Yitzchok Frank would interrupt the story to protest, shouting “Sheker! S’iz nisht shayakh! Es kennisht zein! Lies! It isn’t possible! It can’t be!”)

Another version states that she merely considered jumping into the sea, either mentally or even verbally, but did not actually do so. Suddenly she had a heavenly communication about her grandson, and told her father that they could cast the manuscripts into the sea after all. Immediately they did so, and the storm stopped as suddenly as it had began.

The Cannibals
After this ordeal, everyone on the ship was worn out, physically and emotionally. So they headed for next island they sighted, and anchored offshore in order to set their feet on dry land again for a little while. The passengers disembarked and began to stroll along the shore and among the verdant trees, to recover from their distress.

The Baal Shem Tov and his companions walked until they found a nice shady spot to rest. However, they soon discovered that they had company. Out of the forest emerged a group of cannibals brandishing knives and spears. In a few moments, the cannibals had tied up the threesome and cast them on the ground.

Reb Hirsch, quaking in terror, asked the Baal Shem Tov, “Rebbe, please do something and save us from these savages!”

However, the Baal Shem Tov was silent.

“Why don’t you answer me?” Reb Hirch exclaimed.

“Because right now, I don’t know anything!” the Baal Shem Tov replied. “Do you know anything?”

“Nothing at all,” Reb Hirsch stammered. “Just the alef-beis…”

The cannibals surrounded them, grinning malevolently. In a moment they would start getting ready for dinner…

“If you know the alef-beis, say it!”

Reb Hirsch began: “Alef!” And the Baal Shem Tov answered, “Alef!”

Beis!”—“Beis!”

Gimmel!”—“Gimmel!”

As they prounced the names of the holy letters, the Baal Shem Tov suddenly regained his supernatural powers. In the distance, a bell began ringing, the sound coming closer and closer. Alarmed, the cannibals hastily fled. Soon a carriage came into view, and the people inside freed the prisoners.

Reb Gedaliah Kenig mentioned that Reb Avraham Sternhartz’s mesorah included the detail that as the cannibals were preparing to kill the Baal Shem Tov and his companions, suddenly they heard the ringing of the ship’s bell, and this is why they fled.

Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Bnei Brak, however, remembered that according to his grandfather’s version of the story, the bells that scared off the cannibals were those of the carriage, and the “people” in the carriage were actually malakhim, angels send by Hashem to save the Baal Shem Tov, Udel, and Reb Hirsch.

(When Rabbi Shmuel Breines of Borough Park tells the story, he often digresses here to remark on the power of “temimus u-peshitus,” simple whole-heartedness and faith in Rebbe Nachman’s teachings. See Otzar HaYirah, “Temimus”)

In any case, those in the carriage transported them back to the shore, where they joined the other passengers returning to the ship. The wind filled their sails and the began to travel rapidly—straight back to Istanbul, in time for Acharon shel Pesach.

The Secret of Success
Rebbe Nachman once discussed how his great-grandfather the Baal Shem Tov and the saintly Rabbi Naftali Katz, author of “Semikhas Chakhomim,” both attempted to reach Eretz Yisrael, without success. Yet Rebbe Nachman managed to overcome all obstacles and reach the Holy Land. Why did he succeed where these great figures did not?

Rebbe Nachman explained: “Eretz Yisrael is the aspect of ‘gadlus de-gadlus’ (a sublime level of expanded consciousness). And it is known that every spiritual ascent must be preceded by a decent. Since Eretz Yisrael is ‘gadlus de-gadlus,’ it must be preceded by ‘katnus de-katnus,’ a most extreme descent. Those who came before me were unable to cast themselves down to such depths…”

***

In the merit of the tzaddikim, who sacrificed themselves on behalf of the entire Jewish people, may we too be worthy of reaching the ultimate spiritual goal.

Other Versions of the Baal Shem Tov’s Nesia


About ten years ago, Rabbi Yehoshua Yosef Kornblit of Yerushalayim published a “
Baal Shem Tov Haggadah” with excerpts of various teachings relating to the text. I have often used this Haggadah, along with Rabbi Alter Tepliker’s Breslov Haggadah “Ohr Zarei’ach,” but didn’t notice that at the very end, he includes a few variations of the story of the Baal Shem Tov’s attempted journey to Eretz Yisrael.

If you can’t find a copy of this excellent Haggadah, you could try contacting Rabbi Kornblit, who lives at 15 Batey Varsha. The phone number given in my edition of the sefer is 02 (or just 2 from chutz la’aretz) 371-059. However, you probably need to add another digit before the 3, since Israeli telephone company switched to seven digit phone numbers in the interim. I’d suggest adding a 5, although I’m not sure.

The basic story as found in the sefer “Adas Tzaddikim” is much the same as our Breslov version (although not surprisingly, it doesn’t include the part about the Baal Shem Tov’s daughter Udel’s rescue in the merit of her future grandson Rebbe Nachman‘s writings). In that version, the cannibals are called “Haidamaks,” which is probably a just a loose usage of the term, and they seem to be pirates rather than man-eating natives. After Reb Hirsh Sofer and the Baal Shem Tov call out responsively the letters of the alef-beis, a bell starts ringing and a mysterious elderly captain comes to the rescue with a group of soldiers, and they scare off the pirates. In this account, the ship makes it back to Istanbul on the Seventh Day of Pesach. As for the old captain—he was none other than Elijah the Prophet.

Another retelling of the story in the sefer “Ginzey Yisrael” similarly ascribes the rescue of the Jewish community of Istanbul to the Baal Shem Tov’s singing “Le-she nifla’os gedolos levado,” but neglects to mention the emissaries and the intervention of the Sultan’s mother.

Zera Baruch” describes how Reb Baruch of Medzibuzh would honor the Baal Shem Tov’s deliverance with a communal meal on Acharon shel Pesach and retell the story of his grandfather’s life from the day of his birth until his sea journey. There, he emphasizes that the underlying purpose of this journey was the final redemption of the Jewish people. For the Baal Shem Tov possessed the “nefesh” of Dovid HaMelekh, while the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh possessed the “ruach” of Dovid HaMelekh. And if the two tzaddikim had finally met, the Baal Shem Tov would have received the “neshamah” of Dovid HaMelekh and thus been empowered to bring about the ge’ulah sheleimah.

Rabbi Kornblit also cites the sefer “Ohev Yisrael” to the effect that the Apter Rov, who lived in Medzibuzh after the passing of Reb Baruch, would also conclude Pesach with a tisch that extended into the night in honor of the Baal Shem Tov’s miraculous rescue.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pesach


The Rebbe stated that on Pesach one should cry out in davenning.
(Likkutei Moharan I, 201)

*

Like his saintly great-grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, the Rebbe did not eat gebrokhts. However, in the Breslov community this chumrah is not taken to extremes. This is due to the Rebbe’s remarks about not taking on chumros yeseiros (excessive stringencies). Therefore, although most Breslovers refrain from gebrokhts, those who have a previous custom to eat gebrokhts are not obligated to change.
(Re. Rabbi Nachman’s attitude about chumros yeseiros, see Sichos ha-Ran (English: “Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom,” Breslov Research Institute), section 235. This seems to have been the prevailing view in the circle of the Baal Shem Tov; cf. Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, Imrei Pinchas ha-Shalem [Frankel edition, Bnei Brak 2003], vol. I, “Pesach,” sec. 170-173, that Reb Pinchas was opposed to excessive stringencies except on Pesach, and even then limited himself to those mentioned in the Shulchan Arukh.)

*

The Rebbe stated that reciting the Haggadah in a loud voice (be-kol ram) is a form of tikkun ha-bris, rectification of the Covenant.
(Likkutei Moharan I, 20:10)

*

Shevi’i shel Pesach is one of the five times of the year that Breslover Chassidim are particular to daven together ki-vasikin, following the custom of the Baal Shem Tov.
(See Yemey Moharnat II, 71)

Monday, March 30, 2020

Customs for Chodesh Nisan (Prior to Pesach)




Customs for Chodesh Nisan (Prior to Pesach)
From “Breslov Eikh Shehu: Breslov the Way It Is”
Customs and Practices, Past and Present
Work-in-progress by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

Nisan
The Rebbe taught that the days of Nisan are days of teshuvah, like the days of Tishrei.
(Likutey Moharan I, 49)

*

The Rebbe was born on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, which is the Mishnah designates as the "Rosh Hashanah shel malakhim," the day on which the reign of a Jewish king officially begins. Today many Breslover Chassidim travel to Uman to pray near the Rebbe's tziyun on Rosh Chodesh Nisan because it, too, is a “Rosh Hashanah,” and perhaps to some extent possesses the segulos of Rosh Hashanah.

*

In a letter to Rabbi Avraham Jacobovitch, Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz mentions that Nisan is the head of all months, and is a time of simchah in all the worlds; each day is comparable to a Rosh Chodesh and a Yom Tov; and through this simchah, one can attain tikkun and shemiras ha-bris, as discussed in Likutey Moharan I, 49.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Michtevey Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren R’ Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 26, p. 103)

*

Beginning on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the minhag in the Ukraine was for each person to recite the parshas ha-nasi followed by the “yehi ratzon” after Shacharis, not to read it from the Sefer Torah in public. This was also the Breslover minhag.
(Heard from Rabbi Michel Dorfman. Those who read the nasi privately include the communities of Chernobyl-Skver, Boyan, Karlin-Stolin, Chabad, etc. Reading it from a Sefer Torah was the minhag of Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz, also mentioned in Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom [Munkatch])

*

However, in recent years it became the minhag in the Tzefas Breslov community to read the nasi from the Sefer Torah. This change was made out of concern that people not forget to do so.

*

Reb Elazar and a group of talmidim from Tzefas usually go to Uman immediately after Pesach to spend the last days of Nisan at the Rebbe's tziyun. The chaburah spends one day visiting the kivrei tzaddikim in Berditchev, Medzhibuzh, and Breslov. While in Uman, Reb Elazar teaches Sippurey Ma’asiyos and Likutey Moharan every day, and the chaburah recites Tikkun ha-Klalli be-tzibbur.

*

Reb Gedaliah and his talmidim used to go to Tzefas in order to pray there on Erev Rosh Chodesh Iyar. When asked about this, Reb Gedaliah said that this was the date that Mosdos Nachal Novea Mekor Chochma had purchased its first property in Tzefas.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)

Mekhiras Chometz / Sale of Chometz
Reb Gedaliah stated that the mekhirah is a complete sale, and chas ve-shalom that one should think otherwise. Therefore, one may sell any quantity of chometz gamur.
(Heard from Rabbi Yaakov Klein)

*

Reb Gedaliah did not instruct his talmidim to sell their chometz through a Rov who used an arev kablan. Therefore, it seems he was not particular about this.
(Heard from Rabbi Yaakov Klein. The Baal ha-Tanya advocated the use of an arev kablan, a Jew who acts as the agent of the non-Jew who buys the chametz. )

Shabbos Ha-Gadol
After Minchah, it is customary to recite the Haggadah, beginning with “Avadim hayinu” until “le-khaper al kol avonoseinu.” One does so even if Shabbos ha-Gadol falls on Erev Pesach.
(RaMA, Orach Chaim 430:1; Mishnah Berurah, ad loc.)

*

The Rebbe darshans on the custom that once prevailed in Eastern Europe to turn over the tables after Shabbos HaGadol.
(Sichos ha-Ran 88)

*

The tables were commonly made so that the top rested on the legs. Therefore, by turning over the top, one was provided with a new, “chometz-free” surface.
(Heard from Rabbi Leibel Berger)


Erev Pesach
Reb Avraham Sternhartz told Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz that Reb Noson used to say: “As soon as one recites the berakhah for bedikas chometz, it is already a shtick Pesach (i.e., one is already connected to Pesach).”
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, editor of Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman, Yemei T’la’os [Jerusalem 1982, fifth edition] p. 41)

*

Reb Avraham described how after the bedikah, Reb Noson would speak words of mussar to his sons: they should strive to remove the chometz from their hearts, etc. This was the only time he spoke mussar at such length the entire year. He did so order to awaken the paradigm of “yom nakam bi-libi . . . the day of retribution is in My heart, and the year of My Redemption has come” (Isaiah 63:4). This mood lasted until the burning of the chometz the following morning, when one must also destroy the chometz from one’s heart. Reb Noson’s allusion to the verse “yom nakam bi-libi” alludes to Likutey Moharan I, 83, which speaks of searching for chometz with the “light of the eyes” (see there), destroying the chometz in one’s heart, and other awesome tikkunim that are bound up with the Redemption and Beis ha-Mikdash.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, editor of Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman’s Yemei T’la’os [Jerusalem 1982, fifth edition] p. 41)

*

Reb Gedaliah had a large family and an extremely small dirah. Yet despite the challenges of operating within such circumstances, he remained calm and patient throughout the Pesach preparations, with tzelilus ha-da’as. 
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig)

*

Reb Gedaliah showed great zehirus in all mitzvos de-rabbanan. Thus, he would not even drink water before bedikas chometz, even though this is halakhically permissible.
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig and Rabbi Yaakov Klein)

*

Reb Gedaliah did not use a feather and wooden spoon during bedikas chometz, but only a candle and a sheet of paper made into a cone to collect the ten pieces of chometz, etc. One year one of his children came back from kindergarten and gave him a wooden spoon for the bedikah. However, he put it aside and did not use it, commenting, “Ich fier zach vie der Tate . . . I conduct myself like my father.”
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)

*

Reb Gedaliah’s wife would place each of the ten small pieces of chometz on a piece of paper, and put them on the floor. Reb Gedaliah would collect them during the bedikah and put them in the paper cone together with the candle to be burned in the morning.
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)

*

Reb Gedaliah was not extreme in his manner of performing the bedikah. For example, if a drawer were not normally used for chometz, he would just open it and quickly look inside. He told his children to clean out the pockets of their clothes during the day, and he did not inspect them at night.
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)

*

Reb Avraham Sternhartz used to fast all day on Erev Pesach and did not avail himself of the heter to make a siyum or attend one. This also had been the practice of his zeide, the Tcheriner Rov.
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig and Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)

*

Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn remembered hearing that Reb Avraham had had an older sister who died young, and therefore he was not obligated to fast on Ta’anis Bekhorim; yet he did so anyway. Another possible reason for this stringency, he speculated, was that Reb Avraham wished exempt his bekhor, Reb Noson, during the latter’s childhood, and he simply continued to do so after Reb Noson came of age.

*

The Rav of Tcherin writes that there is no special inyan in Breslov to bake Erev Pesach matzos, which entails many halakhic risks if conditions are not optimal. "However," he adds, "if one can do so properly and without great difficulty, mah tov u-mah na'im."
(See Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 257. However, Reb Elazar has a copy of an unpublished letter from Reb Noson asking for wheat in order to make Erev Pesach matzos. This was a custom of the Baal Shem Tov still observed in many circles; see Shivchey Baal Shem Tov [Avraham Rubenstein, ed.] 199; Siddur ARI Rav Shabbsai, Seder Erev Pesach, et al.)

*

Reb Gedaliah did not bake Erev Pesach matzos. Moreover, he was particular not to use them, due to the halakhic problems surrounding them.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig, Rabbi Chaim Man, and Rabbi Moshe Grinberger)

*

Sometime after chatzos, Reb Gedaliah would recite the letter of Rabbi Shimshon Ostropolier, printed in many editions of the Haggadah. He encouraged his talmidim to do so, as well.
(Heard from Rabbi Moshe Grinberger)

*

After Minchah, he would read recite the account of the Korban Pesach. This is the common minhag. It is possible that the nusach he followed was that of Rabbi Yaakov Emden’s Siddur. This was one of his favorite seforim, which he often reviewed at different times of the year.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

Shabbos HaGadol Thoughts




From Sichot HaRan 88 
Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom (Breslov Research Institute), pp. 205-206
  
It is customary to turn the tables over on Shabbos HaGadol, the Great Sabbath just before Pesach.

Speech remains in exile until Pesach.

Pesach is Pe Sach — “ a mouth speaking” (Rabbi Chaim Vital, Shaar HaKavannos, Inyan Pesach #6).

On Pesach speech emerges from Exile. This is the main idea of the Exodus.

It is written (Ezekiel 41:22), “ And He spoke to me, this is the Table that is before G-d.”

The table is speech.

“And He spoke to me— regarding my food and sustenance. This is the Table that is derived from the category of Speech.

Thus it is written (Deuteronomy 8:3), “On all that emanates from G-d’s mouth will man live.”

When Speech is not in exile, then the Table is turned toward us in an aspect of Face. “And He spoke to me, this is the Table that is before G-d.”

“Before” is lifney — literally “ to the face of.”

When “He spoke,” then the Table is in an aspect of Face.

Speech remains in exile until Pesach.

It is in Egypt until the Exodus.

The Tables are therefore turned over, showing that Speech is not yet in an aspect of Face.

Speech emerges from exile only on Pesach —Pe Sach — “The mouth speaking.”