Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Legacy of the Baal Shem Tov: Inspiration for Today

(Replica of the Baal Shem Tov's synagogue, Medzhibozh)

Sunday, November 20th
The JCC Makom/Jewish Spirituality Programs and The Carlebach Shul present:

The Legacy of the Baal Shem Tov: Inspiration for Today 

Location: JCC of Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave at 76th Street

Sunday, Nov 20, 2016 

9:30AM - 1:15PM
The teachings of the Baal Shem Tov served to inspire the creation of the Hasidic movement and ignite a vibrant renewal of Jewish life. How do his teachings continue to impact Jewish spirituality today? Join renowned teachers, Nehemia Polen, Yitzhak Buxbaum and Chaya Rivka Zwolinski, for this dynamic morning of learning. Co-sponsored by the Carlebach Shul as part of the yahrtzeit celebration in memory of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, z'l. Light breakfast included.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

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.

Yahrtzeit of the Piazeczna Rebbe

4 Cheshvan:
Yahrtzeit of the Piazeczna Rebbe
By Dovid Friedman


4 Cheshvan is the yarzeit of the Piazeczna Rebbe, Reb Kalonymos Kalman, the son of Reb Elimelech of Grodzensk. He died al kiddush Hashem in 5704 on a Tuesday between parshas Noach and parshas Lech Lecha. There is remez to the death of tzaddikim al kiddush Hashem at the end of Noach, where the Midrash Rabbah speaks of Avrohom Avinu being thrown into the furnace.

First, parshas Noach starts off "Noah was a righteous man, whole-hearted in his generation" נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו /. The gematria of צדיק תמים היה with the 11 letters is 725. This is equal to קלונימוס קלמן בן אלימלך with the 20 letters.

The Midrash about Avrohom Avinu being thrown into the furnace is found at the end of Noach, on the words "and Haran died in the presence of Terach his father" / וימת הרן על פני תרח אביו. The gematria of קלונימוס קלמן בן אלימלך זצ״ל הי״ד is equal to על פני תרח with the 3 words.

When Avrohom Avinu was thrown in the furnace, the Midrash uses the words לכבשן האש, which equal 709 with the kolel. קלונימוס קלמן בן אלימלך with the 4 words is also equal to 709. Significantly, 709 is also equal to "incense" / קטרת.

קלונימוס is equal to אש ("fire") with the kolel. קלמן is equal to טהור ("pure"). He was אש טהור -- a "pure fire" of avodas Hashem.

בן אלימלך is equal to עקיבא, who died al Kiddush Hashem at the hands of the Romans while saying the Shema. Interestingly, in an unbelievable piece in his sefer, "Aish Kodesh," which was written in the Warsaw Ghetto, the Piazecza Rebbe speaks about how Rebbe Akiva prepared his whole life in order to die al Kiddush Hashem.

After Rebbe Akiva was killed, a Bas Kol came out saying "Happy are you, Rabbi Akiva, that your soul went out with the word "Echad" / אשריך רבי עקיבא שיצאה נשמתך באחד. The words אשריך רבי עקיבא with the letters and kolel are equal to 940, the same gematria as רבי קלונימוס קלמן בן אלימלך with the letters.

At the beginning of וזאת הברכה it says אש דת למו. The words אש דת are exactly equal to קלונימוס קלמן בן אלימלך. It is also equal to אש קדש written without the letter “ו”. It is brought down that דת למו is the letters of תלמוד.

The Piazecza Rebbe was, of course, one of the most innovative Torah educators of modern times.

Zekhuso yagein aleinu!

Friday, October 28, 2016

“Drawing Down” Divine Providence


From a talk by Rabbi Yaakov Meir Schechter of Jerusalem

Submitted by Rabbi Nosson Rossman

With warm wishes of “Mazal Tov” from the Breslov Center to Dina Rossman and the entire Rossman family on Dina’s Bas Mitzvah

“And Cain said to HaShem, ‘Is my punishment too great to bear? Behold, You have driven me out today from the face of the earth, and I will be hidden from Your face. I will be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and anyone that finds me will kill me.’ And HaShem said to him, ‘Therefore, Cain will not be slain for seven generations.’ “ (Bereishis 4:14-15, according to Rashi)

There is an unusual word in this verse, “Therefore.” How was HaShem’s answer a direct response to Cain’s complaint? The connection is unclear; surely it means to teach us something.

The answer is that Cain’s belief in HaShem’s hashgacha (Providence) was so great, and his recognition that only HaShem could protect him was so clear, that he actually “pulled”  HaShem’s hashgacha and protection into his life. Cain turned to HaShem in his distress and sought His protection alone, THEREFORE, HaShem promised to protect him for seven generations by putting fear into the hearts of those who would harm him (see Ohr HaChaim on Bereishis 4:15).

This principle applies to each of us. To the degree that we believe that HaShem directs our lives, that is how much hashgacha and protection we receive. “HaShem is your shadow,” says the verse (Tehillim 121:5). Just as a shadow follows a person’s movements, so too, HaShem deals with us according to our actions and emotions. The more we realize that HaShem watches over each detail of creation, the more this realization empowers our lives. HaShem will then protect us from danger, and tend to our needs in the most amazing way (Sefer Baal Shem Tov, parshas Kedoshim).

The Apter Rov explains that the word for faith, emunah, is related to the word omen, which means a guide or mentor. When we have faith in HaShem’s constant protection, we actually “pull” that hashgacha into our lives.

The opposite is also true. If we deny HaShem’s hashgacha and believe that things happen to us “by accident,” then HaShem will direct our lives through the screen of nature and chance. Thus the verse says: “If you will not listen to Me, and walk oblivious to Me, then I will walk oblivious to you in fury” (Vayikra 26:27-28). When a person thinks that the world runs on it’s own, HaShem treats him accordingly. And in a world where everything is “accidental,” one encounters a lot of “fury”—that is, a lot of things can go wrong.

I heard a story that happened during The War. A Nazi soldier, on guard duty, caught hold of a passing Jew. “Your life is in my hands,” the Nazi taunted. “I can kill you in an instant, and no one can save you!”

This Jew, who had a deep belief in HaShem’s hashgacha, answered back, “My life is in G-d’s hands. If He does not want me to die, you will not be able to kill me.”

The Nazi was so outraged by this response that he started yelling at the Jew, demanding that he admit to the “truth”—“It is I who can kill you!”

But the Jew held firm to his belief. The Nazi yelled and argued with him for nearly an hour. Finally, his time on guard duty was over. He no longer had “authority” to kill this Jew, and was forced to leave.

It was this Jew’s very conviction that his life was in HaShem’s hands, and not the Nazi’s, that kept him from fear and saved his life. His belief drew down HaShem’s hashgacha, even in the dark and tragic period of The War.

Adapted from Leket Amorim vol. 1, by Rav Yaakov Meir Shechter, shlita
Retold by Rabbi Nosson Rossman, based on a translation by Rabbi Eliezer Shore

Origins of the Berditchever Siddur “Tefilah Yesharah”


By Dovid Sears

A friend of mine recently asked me about the “Berditchever Siddur,” which he has decided to use, so I wrote the following in reply. Since this information may be of interest to others, we are posting it here. No doubt, a number of Breslover Chassidim past and present have used the Berditchever Siddur, but it has no “official” status within Breslov, which doesn’t put much stress on Nusach ha-Tefilah, aside from the few customs that have been preserved (as discussed in previous postings).

The editor of the new (2015) “Pe’er” edition of the Berditchever Siddur provides an Introduction (Hakdamah) that explains the origins of both the Nusach (text) of the Siddur and the accompanying commentary, “Keser Nehorah” (“Crown of Light”).

The Nusach is that of the illustrious Reb Michel of Zlotchov (AKA the Zlotchover Maggid), who was a disciple of both the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezeritch. A Siddur with this Nusach was first published by the latter’s son Rabbi Mordechai of Kremenitz during the very early 1800s, and subsequently in Medzhibuzh at the instruction of the Apter Rov (author of “Ohev Yisrael”), who was the reigning Chassidic leader in that part of Eastern Europe at that time, and who revered the Zlotchover Maggid. These siddurim are no longer extant. However, we do possess a copy of the 1820 edition that was printed in Radvil as “Siddur Tefilah Yesharah,” and which states that it is the second edition on the title page (although it may have been the third if the siddur printed in Medzhibuzh was the same).

(See the facsimiles of the title pages of several early printings at the beginning of the Pe’er edition of the siddur.)

The commentary Keser Nehora was written by Rav Aharon Hakohen of Zhelichov (and Bilgoray). He was also the author of Keser Shem Tov, a classic anthology of teachings of the Baal Shem Tov gleaned from the works of his disciples, primarily the Toldos Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye, and Ohr HaGanuz LaTzaddikim, his original Chassidic teachings on the weekly Torah portion (which seems to strongly reflect the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings – at least the parts I have read).

Although written much earlier – the author, Rabbi Aharon Hakohen, was a contemporary of the Kedushas Levi and the Chozeh of Lublin and the Maggid of Kozhnitz, all of whom gave him enthusiastic approbations – Keser Nehora was first published in the Chassidic (Nusach Sfard) Siddur “Ohr LaYesharim” (1868). I don’t know if it was available prior to that.

I own a copy of the Ohr LaYesharim siddur, and it is more like the standard Nusach Sfard siddurim of today, except that it contains many more variant phrases in brackets. In today’s Nusach Sefard siddurim, by contrast, these brackets are omitted, so we have instead many “double versions” which people commonly recite simply as printed. In any case, the Nusach of the Siddur Ohr LaYesharim is not identical with that of the Siddur Radvil.

I was surprised to learn from the Hakdamah that the commentary Keser Nehora was not printed together with the Nusach of the Siddur Radvil until 1873 in Brody, again as “Siddur Tefilah Yesharah.” Subsequently, this siddur was reprinted in Berditchev (1891), which is where it gets its familiar nickname, the “Berditchever Siddur.” Since then it has been reprinted many times.

The Siddur Tefilah Yesharah now contains teachings and prayers and other additions from various Chassidic giants, such as the Yismach Moshe, Reb Elimelekh of Lizhensk, and the Be’er Lachai Ro’i commentary on a section from the Tikuney Zohar. Some of this material seems to have been added by the publisher, Pe’er, which is based in Kiryas Yoel, the Satmar enclave in Monroe, NY. I’d have to compare it with other, older versions, which I don’t own. However, I do have a 1989 edition of the siddur, which also includes the Tzetel Katan and some of the same material from the Yismach Moshe.

In addition to being the only siddur the Satmar Rov (Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum), zatzal, would use, the Berditchever Siddur has long been the siddur of choice of numerous tzaddikim and chassidim, and remains so today. My Rosh Yeshiva, the Bostoner Rebbe of Flatbush, shlit”a, and yibadel bein chaim l’chaim, his late brother, the Bostoner Rebbe of Borough Park and Ramat Beit Shemesh, zatzal, also used this siddur, as did all of the Bostoner Rebbes. Since Bostoner Chassidus is an offshoot of Lelov, I assume it was used by the Lelover Rebbes, as well (although this would need to be confirmed).

From what I have read, both the Siddur of the Baal HaTanya and the Siddur Tefilah Yesharah date back to about the same time, shortly after 1800. This also seems to be when the commentary Keser Nehorah received its approbations (which are undated, at least in the printed versions). Thus, they are the two earliest PRINTED Chassidic Siddurim, or at least among the earliest. However, there were earlier manuscript siddurim such as those of Rav Yaakov Koppel (d. 1740; siddur first published in 1804) and Rav Shabsai Rashkover (d. 1757; siddur first published in Korets, 1797) that included the kabbalistic kavanos of the Arizal, and were used by early Chassidic masters such as Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz and the Rebbe, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Chabad also possesses a manuscript siddur that is said to have been written for the Baal Shem Tov according to his instructions. I believe it is part of the Chabad library in Crown Heights.

The early Chassidim must have used the common Nusach Ashkenaz siddurim, which they modified according to kabbalistic customs, as found in Pri Eitz Chaim and elsewhere, until the first Chassidic siddurim were printed.

From the original four Haskamos (Approbations) to the commentary Keser Nehora:

“I was shown a [commentary on the] Siddur in the name of Rabbi Aharon Katz, Rav of Bilgoray, according to the kavanah,Shevisi Hashem Lenegdi Samid (I have set G-d before me constantly),’ and in my opinion, it is excellent and entirely desirable throughout. All kavanos of the various Siddurim are holy, but this kavanah of ‘Shevisi Hashem Lenegdi Samid’ is the ‘Holy of Holies’—for it is full of awe of G-d and acceptance of the yoke of G-d’s kingship and G-d’s exaltedness, thus to recognize G-d’s sovereignty in heaven and on earth and in all four directions of the universe. It is a two-edged sword to cut off the klippos (‘evil husks') and to purify the worlds…”
 – Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (author of “Kedushas Levi”)

“In my view, these straightforward kavanos are good indeed, thus to fulfill ‘I have set G-d before me constantly’ at the time of prayer. [This commentary] is full of awe of G-d and acceptance of the yoke of G-d’s kingship, which one should uphold all through the day, and all the more at the time of prayer. I have studied it entirely, and it is good…”
– Rabbi Yisrael ben Shabsai of Kozhnitz (author of “Avodas Yisrael”)

“It is hinted in the Tikuney Zohar in several places that that a Siddur with [these] kavanos would appear in the world in the time preceding the Redemption (‘be-ikvos meshicha’)…
– Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok ben Avraham Eliezer Halevi Horowitz (the “Chozeh” or Seer of Lublin)

“Not every mind is capable of contemplating the esoteric kabbalistic kavanos—but these kavanos of ‘Shevisi Hashem Lenegdi Samid,’ and fear of G-d and love of G-d, are incumbent upon allTherefore, I say to [the author], ‘Yeyashar koach (More power to you)!’ [This work] is fit to be published, and is appropriate for every Jew, to provide help and support and to confer merit upon the many…”

– Rabbi Azriel Halevi Horowitz of Lublin 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev: 25 Tishrei


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Time to Rejoice: A Teaching from Reb Noson on Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah


Free translation of an excerpt from Likutey Halakhos, Chezkas Karka’os, Halakhah 3
As found in Otzar HaYirah, “Teshuvas HaShanah,” sec. 164 and 165

By Dovid Sears

The ritual of taking the Four Species on Sukkos, the “season of our rejoicing,” is meant to imbue the heart with simchah shel mitzvah, the joy of the mitzvah, as the verse states, “You gave joy to my heart” (Psalms 4:8).

This is an aspect of the World to Come. For a person contains within himself all of the worlds; each of us contains an aspect of the “World to Come” and “This World.” That is, the head and higher consciousness (da’as) of a person is an aspect of the World to Come, which represents the culmination of higher perception. The body is the aspect of This World.

The key factor is the heart, which possesses two chambers that house the two basic inclinations: the Yetzer Tov (good urge) and Yetzer HaRa (evil urge). This makes it possible for a person to possess free choice, which is the great challenge of this world. Accordingly, it is possible for one to mentally sense the aspect of the World to Come. However, the main thing is to draw down this perception to the heart, which alludes to This World, the world of free choice.

This is the drawing down of the joy and delight of the World to Come to very midst of This World, in keeping with the verse, “And you shall know (da’as) today and place it in your heart…” (Deut. 11:2). And we accomplish this through the ritual of the Four Species—thus transmitting the joy of the World to Come from the brain to the heart, so that we may feel the joy of the World to Come right here in this world and in the heart, which is the main locus of joy.

Thus it is written, “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day [of the Sukkos festival] a fruit of the Eytz Hadar [‘beautiful tree,’ which Chazal understand to denote the Esrog] and rejoice before Hashem, your G-d” (Leviticus 22:40).

For in this way, we draw down the complete joy of the mitzvah to this world—to such a degree that we will merit to perform all mitzvot, constantly, throughout the year, with inherent joy of the mitzvah, free of any desire for reward in the World to Come. Rather, our entire joy will be in the experience of performing the mitzvah itself.

This is why “hiddur” (beauty) is especially associated with the Esrog, which represents the heart, as our Sages state; and the taste of this tree and the fruit are the same. [Our Sages infer from the Torah’s language that the Creator’s initially commanded this to all trees, but only the Esrog tree properly fulfilled that command.]

For the tree itself alludes to This World, where ordinarily we don’t experience the “taste” of holiness so much. Rather, this is a world of action. Yet from this tree grow wondrous fruits which we may merit to eat and enjoy in in the World to Come, at the time of receiving divine reward. However, the ideal is to experience the taste and the pleasantness of the fruit in the tree, as well. This is the experience of the World to Come when we perform the mitzvah [in this world]—the aspect of the tree and the fruit tasting the same.

Throughout the seven days of Sukkos we merit to elicit this happiness and to rejoice in G-d. This corresponds to “Israel will rejoice in its Maker.” This is the aspect of our joy in performing the mitzvos themselves. For the mitzvos are one with G-d who commanded them. 

This too is the meaning of the Simchas Beis Hasho’evah [i.e., the rejoicing in drawing water from the Shiloach stream for a special Water Libation in the Holy Temple. This celebration took place on the first night of Sukkos, and lasted until dawn, when the water was drawn, amid great festivity and song. However, even today it is customary to celebrate on the nights of Sukkos. These festivities are also called “Simchas Beis HaSho’evah.”]

Afterward, on Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, G-d rejoices (so to speak) in the Jewish people. As our Sages state, it is as if G-d asks, “Please remain with Me one more day…” This corresponds to “G-d will rejoice in His works.”  Then joy is complete; for both joys become one.


At this time we hold the Torah scroll and rejoice with her. This shows that all of our joy is derived from the Torah alone—which is one with G-d. And reciprocally, G-d rejoices with us. Thus the two aspects of joy become one. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Rabbi Nachman’s Yahrzeit



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

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


In Greater New York:

This year the yahrtzeit falls on Wednesday night October 19 through Thursday Oct. 20. Breslov shuls in Flatbush, Monroe, Borough Park, Williamsburg and elsewhere will host public events. (For more information, see the list of contacts on the "Breslov Shuls" page of this website, listed on the right sidebar.) However, be prepared: all these events will be conducted in Yiddish.

Breslov Customs and Practices for Sukkos



Compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

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

Esrog/Arba’ah Minim

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

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

*

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

(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig)

*

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

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

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

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

(Heard from Rabbi Moshe Burshteyn and Rabbi Michel Dorfman)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro and Rabbi Yitzchok Kenig)

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

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

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

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

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

No’i Sukkah (Sukkah Decorations)

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

(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)

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

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

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

(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig)


Ushpizin

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

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

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

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