Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rabbi Chaim Kramer: Why Would Someone Convert To Judaism?

From Breslov Research Institute:

What is it that compels a non-Jew to join the ranks of the Jewish People? After all, the media takes a joyride by demonizing Israel and the Jewish nation. Why make a conscious decision to become a Jew?
Many teachings found in our writings actually marvel at the qualities it takes to make such a bold step.
Nowhere in Chassidic discourses can we find the abundance of material addressing this idea as in the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

Read the whole article from Rabbi Chaim Kramer's

Monday, July 27, 2015

“Shema Yisrael”

Otzar Nachmani # 230
Collected Talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein, zatzal
Translated by Dovid Sears

Dated: Tuesday, Parshas Beshalach 5763 / 2003
[Reb Nachman Burstein writes:]

On the previous Shabbos, Parshas Bo, my grandson entered into the bris of Avraham Avinu, a”h, at the Breslover Synagogue in Me’ah She’arim [Jerusalem]. And on that very day a chiddush, a novel insight, occurred to me, through the kindness of Hashem.

It is customary that as soon as the infant is brought to the bris, he is transferred to his father’s arms, and while holding the infant, the father calls aloud, “Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad!”

This corresponds to the well-known teaching of Reb Noson that the entire celebration and purpose of a Jewish wedding is that another Jewish soul should come to the world and declare every day, morning and night, “Shema Yisrael…!”—thus to magnify and sanctify the great Name of the Blessed One.

This is why the father calls out in public, “Shema Yisrael…” while holding the infant, specifically. In this manner he shows that the child was born in order to say “Shema Yisrael…” And since the child is still unable to speak these words himself, his father does so in his place.

“Mesirus Hatenu’os”

Photo by Boogie ("Everybody Street")

Otzar Nachmani , sec. 219
Collected Talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein zatzal
Translated by Dovid Sears

The following describes a Breslover practice that reflects the acknowledgement of hashgacha pratis (divine providence) in every detail of our lives. Please see the sources in Sichos ha-Ran that the author cites. This strengthens a person’s ability to “go with the flow” in all aspects of daily life. DS

I heard from many Breslover Chassidim, and in particularlar from Reb Yankel Melamed (Rabbi Yaakov Kalmanovitch of Yerushalayim), zal, that it was customary to “give over” all of one’s movements and gestures to Hashem (“mesirus hatenu’os,” a practice the Rebbe describes in Sichos ha-Ran # 2 and # 238)—right after reciting “Modeh Ani” in the morning and washing their hands, etc.

This was the nusach [i.e., the basic verbal formula, more or less]: Ribbono shel Olam! Master of the Universe! I cast my burden upon You, and rely upon You alone. I entrust all of my movements this day, and all those of my children and whoever depends on me, as well as all of my conduct and all aspects of the entire day—that everything should be according to Your beneficent Will, in keeping with the view of our holy Rebbe, “tzaddik yesod olam,” the “flowing brook, source of wisdom,” Rabbeinu Nachman ben Feige, may his merits shield us, amen.

On Shabbos they would add “the entire Shabbos,” and on Yom Tov, “the entire Yom Tov.”

I also remember that the chassid, Reb Shmuel Shapiro, zal, used to recite the “giving over” of his movements before praying Ma’ariv. He would combine it with the prayer cited by the Bi’ur Halakhah (additional glosses of the Chofetz Chaim on Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chaim, sec. 3, re. the three prayers of thanksgiving) in the name of the Talmud Yerushalmi, that it is good to recite before Ma’ariv: May it be Your Will, our G-d and G-d of our fathers, that just as I was in darkness and You brought me into the light, so may You bring me from darkness to light… (see there for the full prayer).

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Prayer for Moshiach

By Rabbi Noson Sternhartz
Likutey Tefillos I, 142
Translated by Dovid Sears, “Entering the Light” (Breslov Research Institute)

Our God and God of our fathers: have mercy upon us, and confer merit upon us, and speedily send us our righteous Moshiach. He will fix this broken world, as well as all of the worlds from the highest to the lowest, for they all depend upon this lowest World of Action (Olam ha-Asiyah). Have pity on him and on us, and send him speedily and in peace, that he may bring everything to perfection, with the most awesome and wondrous tikkun (rectification).

Enlighten us with true perception, and open our eyes and hearts to Your Torah. Thus, may we be privileged to understand all the words of the Torah lucidly, according to their truth, so that no question or doubt will remain in our minds concerning any law or path among the laws and paths of the Torah. Rather, may everything be clarified beyond any shadow of a doubt, even those questions and doubts about which the great tzaddikim of former times declared "teiku." The Moshiach will straighten out them all, untangle them and make them understandable to us, and rectify the paradigm of "teiku" that includes all of the uncertainties in the world—both those that perplexed the great sages of Israel concerning the laws and paths of the Torah, and those that have perplexed everyone, from the greatest of the great to the smallest of the small.

So many of us yearn with all of our hearts to return to You! However, the paths of return and the paths of Torah are hidden from us, and our hearts are torn by doubts and deep uncertainties about which course of action to take. This is especially true of me, as I stand before You today. You know all that I have been through, and how many doubts and conflicts have bothered me about so many things. These confusions are greater than ever today, in so many areas of my life and in so many ways. My soul is so disturbed that sometimes it seems more than I can bear.

Master of the Universe, Master of the Universe! Almighty God of truth, "great in advice, and mighty in deed!" (Jeremiah 32:19). Have compassion on the Jewish people and upon me, and send a wondrous illumination from the World of Rectification (Olam ha-Tikkun), for which our righteous Moshiach will serve as the spiritual channel. Then "teiku" will be transformed to the most wondrous tikkun, and all questions will be resolved and all doubts clarified, even the subtlest "doubts of doubts"—and we will constantly receive perfect, good, and true advice about everything in the world.

In Your compassion, teach us the proper way to mourn and lament over the destruction of the Holy Temple at all times, particularly every night at the exact moment of chatzos, and during the three summer weeks known as "between the straits (bein ha-metzarim)." On the Ninth of Av, the bitter day when both Holy Temples were destroyed, may we recite the Book of Lamentations and kinnos (elegies) sincerely, with a broken and humble spirit, and pour out our hearts like water before You. Let us "put our mouths to the dust—perhaps there is hope" (Lamentation 3:29), and strike our heads against the walls of our hearts, due to our suffering and travail, as a nation and as individuals. How many years have passed since the devastation of our holy city and Holy Temple! How has the glory of the "House of Our Life" been removed! The trouble of each day is worse than the day before, especially now, when harsh and cruel decrees have been issued against our people, beyond our ability to endure. Our lives hang in the balance; our hearts are filled with dread at the thought of the harsh decrees that those that hate us wish to carry out against us, God forbid.

God of mercy, give us the emotional strength to empathize with the plight of the Jewish people, as well as to face our own spiritual dilemma. Give us the courage to break our hearts before You, and pour forth our supplication like water before You in complete sincerity, admitting the greatness of our sins and transgressions, and the “stiff-necked” behavior (Exodus 32:9) that has prolonged our exile and caused all of our grief.

"Let us raise our hearts to our hands unto God in heaven" (Lamentations 3:41). Let us resort to the art of our holy ancestors, and cry and wail bitterly; let us wander the streets and alleys and market places, supplicating the One Above "until He looks down upon us from heaven" (Lamentations 3:50), until He awakens His mercy upon us, and speedily consoles us, and delivers us from our afflictions and sufferings, collectively and individually.

May God enlighten us, even now, with a ray of the light of our righteous Moshiach, thus to mitigate all harsh decrees, and end all of our grief and travail. May He constantly shine upon us the light of truth, and constantly heal us with new and wondrous tikkunim, and answer and elucidate for us all doubts and questions and quandaries. May we constantly receive the right advice, according to the highest truth, so that we will return to You in truth, speedily and with a whole heart, thus to engage in Torah and prayer and the performance of commandments and good deeds, all the days of our lives. Guard us and save us from all sin and transgression, so that we never veer aside from Your will, neither to the right nor the left (cf. Deuteronomy 5:29). May Your compassion be aroused on behalf of Your children, and may You speedily bring us our righteous Moshiach, and redeem us completely, with the final and eternal redemption.

Then the paradigm of "teiku" will be transformed to "tikkun" to the ultimate degree of perfection; that is, the letter nun from the word kinnos (elegies) will be transferred to the end of the word teiku, thus to convert "teiku" to "tikkun." All lamentations will cease throughout the world, and be remade into vessels of divine perception.

O Merciful One, Master of Deliverance, Master of Consolation! We beg You, console us from all of our afflictions, and help us to accomplish our work in this world. Spread forth upon us Your "Tent of Peace"; prepare for us good advice, and save us speedily for the sake of Your Name. Grant us the knowledge of absolute truth. Save us from the many doubts and confusions and uncertainties that interfere with our ability to serve You. Confer upon us perfect and true advice at all times, so that we may return to You in truth, and become the people You want us to be, now and forever, amen sela.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Keep Dancing!

Otzar Nachmani #231
Collected Talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein, zatzal
Translated by Dovid Sears

People often ask in amazement, “What’s with you Breslover Chassidim? You dance every day after davenning Shacharis and Ma’ariv. Today isn’t Purim or Simchas Torah, what are you celebrating?” We reply: There are many reasons for these rikkudim (dances).

1) Our Rebbe [Rabbi Nachman], of blessed memory, writes in Likutey Moharan (Lesson 10, “Vi-eileh ha-Mishpatim”), that through dancing and clapping hands, heaven’s harsh judgments are “sweetened”; see there at length. And many other lessons in Likutey Moharan discuss clapping hands during prayer (Lessons 4, 45, and 46). Therefore, we fulfill our Rebbe’s holy teachings. Indeed, Chazal state that [since the destruction of the Holy Temple] each day is more accursed than its predecessor, may the Merciful One save us (Sotah 49a). So it is urgently necessary that harsh judgments on the world be mitigated. That’s why we clap our hands during prayer, and right afterward, we dance: so that the harsh judgments on the world will be sweetened, as our Rebbe taught. Thus, all Breslover Chassidim fulfill his words in simplicity every day, including on Shabbos and Yom Tov and even during the Three Weeks [of mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple], except for the Nine Days. We believe with a whole heart that this truly has a great effect, and surely nullifies many harsh decrees on the world; Hashem derivers gratification from this (so to speak), and the divine wrath is assuaged.

2) Another reason for the rikkud after davening in the morning is so that we will begin the day bi-simchah—with joy. For our Rebbe said, “Mitzvah gedolah lihiyos bi-simchah tamid, it is a great mitzvah to be happy constantly!” And dancing makes a person happy.

3) By doing so, we demonstrate to Hashem that we are happy to get up in the morning and pray with a minyan—and we express this joy in a rikkud in honor of Hashem. This is also an expression of thanks for the kindness Hashem has done for us by restoring our souls that had been entrusted to His care during sleep. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig's Yahrtzeit

The 23rd of Tammuz is the yahrtzeit of Rav Gedaliah Aharon Kenig (sometimes spelled "Koenig"). Reb Gedaliah was the foremost disciple of Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz and founder of the Breslov community in Tzefat, Israel.

For a brief biography, see here:

An essay on the Breslov mesorah in general, which explains the places of leaders such as Reb Gedaliah, Reb Avraham, and others, appears here:

The kehillah that Reb Gedaliah and his sons and talmidim worked so hard to build is now led by his son, Rabbi Elazar Mordechai Kenig.

The Tzefat Breslov website is linked on the sidebar of this blog.

May Reb Gedaliah intercede above on behalf of Klal Yisrael, and may the seed he planted in the mountains of Galil HaElyon flourish and grow!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Bender

The yahrtzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Bender, zal, the central figure in the Breslov Kehillah of Me'ah She'arim after WWII, will be on 22 Tammuz.

For a brief biography of Reb Levi Yitzchok, see here.

A rare video of one of his shmuessen in Yiddish is also available online here.

May Reb Levi Yitzchok intercede above on behalf of all Klal Yisrael.

Three Weeks

From “Breslov Eikh she-Hu: Customs and Good Practices” compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

Many Breslover Chassidim study Likutey Moharan II, 67, during the Three Weeks and recite the corresponding prayer, Likutey Tefillos II, 33. Some also recite this prayer on Tisha be-Av, but only after chatzos, since it contains words of consolation.
(Cf. Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh VI, 499)


Breslover Chassidim dance after davenning even during the Three Weeks, until Rosh Chodesh Av. The melody usually sung at this time is "Nicham HaShem Tzion." However, beginning on Rosh Chodesh, dancing is curtailed until after Tisha be-Av.
(Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh IV, 191)


During the Three Weeks, some Breslover Chasidim are accustomed to sit on the floor every weekday at noon to recite Tikkun Chatzos, including on Erev Shabbos, as mentioned in Shulchan Arukh. This was Reb Gedaliah’s practice. Reb Elazar informed us that his father would have liked his talmidim to do so be-tzibbur, but this was not feasible at the time. 


Like all Chassidim, Breslovers follow the shittah in halakhah that there is no public display of mourning on Shabbos Chazon.

Heh Av

This is the yahrtzeit of the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria Ashkenazi) of Tzefas, universally recognized as the foremost master of Kabbalah by all Chassidic, Lithuanian, and Sefardic kabbalists. His teachings were written down by his talmid muvhak, Rabbi Chaim Vital (Calabrese), and primarily consists of “Eight Gates,” including the bedrock of his teachings, the Eitz Chaim.

In Tzefas, the hillulah of the Arizal attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world, who recite Tehillim and pray at his gravesite. It is also a widespread custom to immerse in the natural spring where he was accustomed to immerse, not far from his kever in the old Beis ha-Chaim. The Arizal stated that whoever did so would succeed in doing teshuvah for all his sins before he died.

(“Chayey ha-Arizal, a Hebrew biography of the Arizal culled from Shivchey Arizal and other classic sources was compiled and annotated by Rabbi Avraham Abish Tzeinvirt, and published by Makhon Da’as Yosef, Yerushalayim 1990. Rav Ya’akov Hillel of Machon Ahavat Shalom also has published an annotated critical edition of Shivchey Arizal.)

Tisha be-Av

Tisha be-Av  is one of the five times that Breslover Chassidim daven together ki-vasikin. The avodah of reciting Kinnos is taken very seriously and lasts until the late morning.


Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender stated that on Tisha be-Av, it is our minhag to recite the berakhah "she'asah li kol tzorkhi" in its proper place in Birkhos ha-Shachar.
(Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh VI, 497. Similarly, cf. Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom [Munkatch] 675. Some communities omit this berakhah because the Gemara associates it with donning the shoes, and on Tish Be-Av it is forbidden to wear leather shoes or sandals. However, it is permissible to wear shoes made from other materials, such as canvas or plastic.)


The fast is broken immediately after Ma'ariv in the synagogue, prior to Kiddush Levanah. It is customary to dance after reciting Kiddush Levanah upon the conclusion of Tisha be-Av, despite the fact that most restrictions are maintained until noon of the following day.
(Cf. Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh IV, 270)


Soon after Tisha be-Av, Reb Elazar Kenig usually begins studying the lesson from Likutey Moharan that he will publicly deliver on the second night of Rosh Hashanah, together with its related teachings from Likutey Halakhos, etc. On some years he has started learning his Rosh Hashanah lesson even earlier. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Reb Hirsch Leib Puts On His Talis

Otzar Nachmani
From the Collected Talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein, zatzal
Translated by Dovid Sears (unedited)

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok [Bender] told me many times about the wedding of his brother-in-law, Rabbi Hirsch Leib Lippel, who was a spiritually elevated young man of handsome appearance, an expert Torah scholar and a devoted worshipper of G-d. [Reb Hirsch Leib] was one of the students of Reb Boruch “Getzeh’s,” who used to pray every day for hours on end, with intense fervor. [Reb Boruch] had suggested the marriage of Reb Hirsch Ber to his wife’s sister Reizel, a daughter of Reb Aharon of Kiblitch, who was no longer alive. The wedding was celebrated on Erev Shabbos following Shavuos in 5683 (1923).

Reb Levi Yitzchok related something remarkable about the wedding of this exceptionally devout bridegroom (“he-chasan oved Hashem”). On Shabbos morning, when the first worshippers came to pray in the Breslov Kloyz, as they entered the vestibule they were surprised to behold the bridegroom standing there with his talis on his shoulders, reciting with fiery emotion the words preparatory to the mitzvah of donning the talis: “Borkhi nafshi … Le-shem yichud…

With deveykus and hislahavus (attachment to G-d and passion), he cried out in a thunderous voice, with deep yearning, “Hareini misa’tef… Behold, as I enwrap myself… so may my nefesh, ruach and neshamah (three levels of the soul) be enwrapped [in the divine light]… And just as I am enclothed by the talis in this world, so may I merit the spiritual ‘cloak of the rabbis’ in the Garden of Eden!” And so with fiery emotion did he recite the words, “Deliver my nefesh, ruach and neshamah and my prayer from the External Forces (‘chitzomim’)!”

Due to his emotional intensity, [Reb Hirsch Leib] was entirely unaware of the other worshippers who held back and stood behind him, not wanting to enter the Kloyz by way of the vestibule and possibly disturb his recitation of the “Le-shem yichud…” So they waited until he had finished reciting the blessing over the talis, “le-hisa’tef bi-tzitzis,” with awe and love. Only then did they enter the Kloyz to pray.

Reb Levi Yitzchok added that without a doubt, everyone in that exalted group experienced true feelings of teshuvah (return to G-d). For this made a powerful impression upon them all, since it was extraordinary to see a bridegroom on the morning after his wedding night, who nevertheless arose before dawn to begin the Shacharis prayer before the congregation arrived, and to fulfill the mitzvah of donning the talis with such fervor as this. Subsequently, when they began to pray, [Reb Hirsch Leib] prayed as if his heart were aflame, the like of which they had never seen. And afterward, on Motza’ei Shabbos, they held a Melaveh Malkah meal with “sheva brokhos” in honor of the bride and groom with great joy, happiness, dancing  and festivity, for many long hours, as befit a chasan such as this!