Monday, January 8, 2018

Is the Tzaddik an Intermediary?

(Painting by Dovid Sears)

Bi’ur ha-Likkutim 10:17
By Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman (Chazan)
Translation by Dovid Sears

Dedicated to the memory of Debbie Morgenstern
Dobra bas Sholom Yehoshua, a"h 
Yahrtzeit: 8 Kislev

This excerpt from a classic Breslov commentary on Likutey Moharan clarifies the way in which the tzaddik serves as an intermediary  in supplicating Hashem on behalf of the Jewish people and indeed, the entire world— but in truth, the tzaddik is NOT an intermediary, as this teaching will explain.

The author, Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman (Chazan) (1848-1917), was one of the leading Breslov teachers after Reb Noson and his immediate circle of talmidim. (Significantly, his father, Rabbi Nachman of Tulchin, was raised by Reb Noson and almost single-handedly kept the Breslov movement going after Reb Noson’s passing. Thus Reb Avraham knew Reb Noson’s closest talmidim, and was steeped in the teachings and oral traditions of Breslov from birth.) After Reb Avraham’s passing, Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz (1903-1973) collected whatever writings survived of his insights and chiddushim on Likutey Moharan, whether from Reb Avraham’s notebooks or from his talmidim; he then edited and eventually published this material as “Bi’ur ha-Likkutim” in 1935. This precious work has since been republished many times.

In this translation, I have left the sections in brackets [ ] and parentheses ( ) as they are found in the original printed version. From the language used, it seems that the bracketed sections are the author’s words, while the sources in parenthesis were probably provided by the editor, Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz—himself a profound Torah scholar and kabbalist.  There are also a few interpolations of my own, which I have distinguished from the others by using braces { } or by adding them as separate paragraphs in italics.

After Reb Noson’s writings, the works of Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman and those of his older contemporary, Rabbi Nachman Goldstein, better known as the Tcheriner Rov,[1] are probably the most authoritative works in the Breslov literature.

This excerpt from Bi’ur ha-Likkutim isn’t “light reading.” But it is extremely important for anyone who wants to understand Breslov Chasidus correctly, and therefore deserves careful study.

Concerning the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu, it seems clear that this reflects the elevation of the holy qualities of excellence and greatness {which are qualities} of the Blessed One Himself [for he,[2] in his greatness and regency, sits upon the very “Divine Throne,” so to speak,[3] as discussed elsewhere[4]].

As an aside, it seems to my limited understanding that it is necessary to write something about this in connection with the words of the RaMBaM {when he states} that it is forbidden to ask any other person to pray for him—for this is comparable to {establishing} an intermediary {between man and G-d} and avodah zarah {idolatry},[5] G-d forbid.  

One may find {the RaMBaM’s words} surprising and astonishing, given the many biblical verses and teachings of Chazal from which it is apparent that Jewish people asked Moshe Rabbeinu and Shmuel ha-Navi and other {tzaddikim} to pray for them. [Particularly, see the glosses of the BaCH on tractate Sotah (14a) regarding the burial place of Moshe … that Moshe would pray for us, etc.]

That is, Moshe’s burial place was hidden, so that the Jewish people could not pray there. Otherwise, they would arouse the soul of Moshe to intervene on their behalf before the Divine Throne, thus hastening the Final Redemption.[6]

Regarding this, it seems clear that all of the words of Chazal about the prohibition mentioned above {in the name of the RaMBaM} apply when one intends to make an intermediary, G-d forbid, of whomever one supplicates. However, if one’s intention is otherwise, as in the matter of communal prayer, where the worshippers arouse one another to pray together about their troubles, collectively and individually [there is nothing forbidden in this]. For each person is obliged to participate in the plight of his friend [and also the Torah sage and tzaddik himself is compelled to request those who depend upon him to pray for him (see Alim le-Terufah, the first letter of Rebbe Nachman)—even though it is with him alone that prayer attains perfection, as I have explained elsewhere from his holy words.[7]]

The editor refers to the letter that the Rebbe wrote to his followers during the early stages of his terminal illness: “Tell my good friend, Rabbi Noson of Nemirov, as well as all of our brotherhood, that they should pray that G-d send me a complete healing…. I only ask you to pray for me in each of the daily prayers, and not forget all of the good I have done for every one of you until now. It is possible that G-d will give me [a complete healing], and you will be able to receive more good from me. My beloved brothers and friends, I beseech you to pray for my anguished soul. Pray with intense concentration, from the heart…” [8]

For all Jewish souls are considered to be “portions of the Shekhinah”[9] [“those carried from birth” (Isaiah 46:3), as is known (see Pardes Rimonim, Gate 23, chap. 14, Erkhey ha-Kinuyim, Erekh: “Nefesh”)[10]]—they are an “intermediary,” so to speak, between all of the “worlds” and the Blessed One Himself, so to speak, as found in the words of the Arizal.

In a deeper sense, this is what empowers the Jewish People to serve as a “light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:6, 60:3), to bring about the universal recognition and perception of G-d.[11]

If I were not afraid to say it, I would explain, according to the ideas mentioned above, the astounding statement of Chazal that the Children of Noah {i.e., non-Jews} are not commanded at all regarding shituf [i.e., worship of other, secondary powers in addition to the Creator}.[12]  This is utterly astonishing, to our way of thinking. However, concerning all of this, it may be understood from afar that the souls of Israel are commanded and warned not to create any additional power or intermediary between themselves and the Blessed One, because in truth, there is no intermediary whatsoever between them. For they themselves are the “intermediary” and the Shekhinah,[13] so to speak—except from the standpoint of the advantage and benefit that is found between them, among themselves, that each member has in relation to the other, because no two people are alike, as is known (see Likutey Moharan I, 25:3).

In particular, {regarding} the soul of the tzaddik, as mentioned above, they are greatly compelled to bind themselves (lehischaber) to him when engaging in prayer, together with the entirety of the congregation (tzibbur)—and in  particular, with the soul of the tzaddik and Torah sage among them

Thus, the tzaddik is one with the tzibbur. However, if the tzaddik would be of another order above and beyond the tzibbur, this would constitute an actual intermediary, G-d forbid.

And also, nevertheless, they are all compelled to combine their prayers with those of the sinners and those among them who are distant {from holiness}.[14] For this too is a necessary matter; as “when Yisro came…” as we have explained above.

That is, as the Zohar (II, 69a) states, “When Yisro came and declared, ‘Now I know that Hashem is great…’ then the Exalted Divine Name was esteemed and elevated.”[15] With this, all the forms of idolatry that Yisro had formerly served and all of his theological errors were corrected, elevated and transformed to holiness.

[1] Particularly the latter’s commentary, Parpara’os le-Chokhmah on Likutey Moharan.

[2] That is, Moshe Rabbeinu, or the “tzaddik who is an aspect of Moshe,” as the Tikuney Zohar (Tikkun 69) states: “There is an extension of [the spirit of] Moshe to every generation and every tzaddik.”

[3] Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman uses the term kivayakhol (“so to speak”) repeatedly. The reason for this is that he is discussing subtle spiritual concepts that might easily be misunderstood.  For example, in this context, there is no one who “sits,” and there is no “Divine Throne” to sit upon. These are symbolic terms for sublime spiritual realities that the Prophets and Sages were forced to depict and discuss in the language of mundane realities.

[4] The editor refers the reader to Likutey Moharan I, 6:6 (end) and ibid. II, 1:14 (end). In the first source, Rebbe Nachman expounds on one of the wondrous stories of Rabba Bar Bar Chanah found in the Gemara. Referencing the Zohar which states that “the Holy One, blessed be He, and Israel are entirely one,” Rebbe Nachman interprets the man seated on the Divine Throne in Ezekiel’s vision as representing Israel, and in particular the tzaddik who is an aspect of Moshe (corresponding the “upper point of the letter alef”; see there at length). In the second source, Rebbe Nachman states that only Hashem can judge the world on Rosh Hashanah, because He is the “Place of the World,” and He alone knows the “place” and situation of each creature. However, when the tzaddik who is an aspect of Moshe “takes hold of the Divine Throne” (as in the Gemara’s story of Moshe’s heavenly ascent and his denunciation by the angels in Chagigah 15b), which is “the source of all souls,” he is empowered to participate in the mystery of divine judgment and cause that judgment to be tempered with mercy.

[5] That is, as an intermediary. The editor references the RaMBaM’s Perush al ha-Mishnayos, Sanhedrin 10:1, Principle 5; he also refers the reader to Teshuvos Chasam Sofer, Orach Chaim, no. 166.

[6] This and many similar sources are listed by Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig in his Chayei Nefesh. An unedited digital version of the first half of this book in English translation is available here.

[7] The editor adds parenthetically: This matter is discussed in many sources: see Lessons 2 and 30 in the first section of Likutey Moharan, and Torah 8 in the second section.

[8] Alim le-Terufah: Mi-Kisvey Admo”r Moharan, zy”a: Letter 1, dated 5567 / 1807.

[9] “G-d’s portion is His people” (Deut. 32:9)—or alternatively, “A portion of the Divine [HaVaYaH] is His people.” The kabbalistic understanding of this verse is that the souls of Israel pre-exist within Hashem, and thus the neshamah is considered a “portion of G-d Above”; see Shefa Tal, Introduction. The Rebbe mentions this concept in Likutey Moharan I, 260. He also cites the verse from Isaiah above. Cf. Tanya, chap. 2, which uses the same phrase as Rebbe Nachman, “an actual portion of G-d Above (chelek Eloka mi-ma’al mamash),” both sources adding the word “mamash (actual).”

[10] There, the RaMaK relates the term “nefesh” to the sefirah of Malkhus. Since the souls of Israel are an aspect of Malkhus and the Shekhinah too is identified with Malkhus, the two are part and parcel of one another. At least, this is my understanding of the source reference.

[11] Rebbe Nachman discusses this role of the Jewish People in the same lesson on which the Bi’ur ha-Likkutim elaborates here: Likutey Moharan I, 10, particularly sections 2-3.

[12] The editor directs the reader to the RaN, end of chap. 1 of tractate Avodah Zarah, and Tosefos on tractate Bekhoros 2b, both which are cited by the ReMA in Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 156:1.

[13] That is, in their essence, the souls of Israel are “actual portions of the Shekhinah,” as cited above in note 9.

[14] There is a well-known saying that appears in many holy books that the word “tzibbur” (the root letters of which are tzaddi-beis-resh) stands for three types of people: tzaddikim (letter tzaddi), beinonim (those who are neither tzaddikim nor wicked) (letter beis); and resha’im (wicked) (letter resh). This is consistent with the teaching of Chazal that the Four Species used on Sukkos represent four categories of Jews, one of which is the willow branch, which represents those who have “neither a pleasant taste or fragrance,” corresponding to Torah and mitzvos (Vayikra Rabbah 30:12). Similarly, one of the Four Sons in the Pesach Haggadah is the “Ben Rashah,” the Evil Son.

[15]  See Likutey Moharan I, 10:2, 14:2, 59:1, et al.

Rabbi Nasan Maimon - January 8

(Click on image to enlarge)

Rabbi Avraham Sutton Lecture with music by Andy Statman at Sheves Achim, Flatbush, Jan. 17

Rabbi Sutton is a prolific author, editor, and master teacher of Jewish mysticism.

Thanks to our friend, David Schweke of "Exciting Judaism," who organized this event:

DATE: January 17Wednesday:

Brooklyn, NY
Men and women invited (separate seating)

An Evening of Torah and the Music of Andy Statman!

Begins 8:00 pm

Congregation Sheves Achim / The Flatbush Minyan 1517 Ave. H (off East 16th St. across from Train) Brooklyn

BOTH the B & Q trains stop locally at Ave H station.


Customers who need to exit at Avenue H should take the train to Kings Hwy and

transfer to a Manhattan-bound train.

Suggested Donation $10.00

We respectfully request full silence during the musical performance.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"The Midwives Feared G-d"

By Rabbi Tanchum Burton

And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that He made them houses. (Exodus

The midwives spoken of in this verse, are Yocheved and Miriam, the mother and sister of 
Moshe Rabbenu respectively (Sotah 11b). We know that what precedes this verse is an account of these midwives’ refusal to murder all male Jewish newborns in accordance with
the decree of Pharaoh--as well as their continued assistance to birthing mothers and these newborns. Yet, the verse does not say “because of the midwives’ refusal...”; rather “because the midwives feared G-d...” Their defiance of Pharaoh, therefore, was a manifestation of something much further reaching: their yir’as shomayim, their fear of G-d. Why specifically the fear of G-d? Why wasn’t this expressed as their obedience of G-d?

There is a certain phrase that appears several times in the Torah, namely, “...and you shall fear your G-d, I am the L-rd”. All of these instances are in the Book of Leviticus, and all of them have to do with situations where it would be possible for a sinner to get away with his act unnoticed by his fellow human beings, such as cursing a deaf person, or placing a stumbling block before a blind person. The deaf person does not hear the insult, nor does the blind person see the treachery; he cannot link the stumbling block to the one who placed it there. Yet, we are warned, “and you shall fear your G-d...” in order to tell us that even when others do not hear or see, G-d does see. We are seen. The awareness of this, and it’s power in helping us refrain from doing the wrong thing is called yir’as shomayim, the fear of G-d.

If you have ever watched a birth, you know that a birthing woman’s focus is taken up almost entirely by the pains of labor, even after the baby is born. A midwife under orders from a bloodthirsty dictator would have no problem attributing the death of the infant to complications” if she chose to fulfill such a macabre decree. In all situations where power can be abused at little or no cost to the abuser, yir’as shomayim is the essential ingredient in the maintenance of the right and the good. It was this quality that Yocheved and Miriam possessed in great measure, which allowed them to place sacred values above their own survival. Therefore, the Torah tells us, “G-d made them houses”.

This cryptic term “houses”, refers to the “houses” that descended from Yocheved and Miriam. 
These are the House of Priesthood and the House of Levi from Yocheved, and the House of Kingship, which is linked to Miriam through King David, her descendant (See Targum Yonason on the verse, and Shemos Rabbah 1:15). The Maharal (Gur Aryeh al HaTorah on the verse) notes that the term “house” denotes an item that has both inclusiveness and permanence. A house contains all of its contents, bringing order and unity to what would have been a random array of objects. A house is usually constructed in such a way that it will stand permanently.

The houses of the Kohanim and the Leviim are inclusive in that they contain all of their 
members; the kingship is inclusive in that the king is a central, unifying factor over all of the people under his tutelage. They are permanent in the sense that Kohen and Levite status is passed down forever through the generations. Although technically, the kingship can pass from one family to another, if the king’s son is suitable, he inherits it. These three items are like pillars which support the nation of Israel for all time.

In Likutei Moharan (I:10:3), Rebbe Nachman z”l cites a passage in the Talmud (Pesachim 
88a) which describes three levels of prayer: Avraham’s, which is referred to as “mountain”, Yitzchok’s, which is referred to as “field”, and Yaakov’s, which is referred to as “house”. These levels relate to the accessibility of prayer. The mountain must be climbed; the field can be easily reached but offers no protection; the house can be easily entered and shelters whomever is there. Thus, Yaakov created a path that is the most accessible to the people of the world. Rebbe Nachman relates that this is the desired goal, to bring prayer down to earth, so to speak, so that a person can naturally and easily enter the conversation with G-d. The more democratic this house is, the more G-d’s glory is revealed.

The Holy Temple represents this house, a place for the indwelling of the Divine Presence, 
where all peoples of the world can connect to and give glory to G-d, as the verse states, “for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7). This sublime future will be the fruit of our holy bubbes’ self-sacrifice and yir’as shomayim.

May we be blessed to experience the pleasantness of “sitting in the house of the L-rd, all the 
days of [our] live[s],” (Psalms 27:4) in the great merit of Yocheved and Miriam.

Moses’s First Vision

(C) Dovid Sears

Moses’s First Vision

By Dovid Sears

Moses exemplified the person who feels that he or she doesn’t belong in this world. Thus, he named his firstborn son “Gershom,” explaining “Because I was a stranger (Hebrew: ger) in a strange land” (Exodus 2:22). Moses was an adopted child from a persecuted foreign nation, raised in the house of Pharaoh, who had become the arch-enemy of his people. At the same time, he was rejected by his fellow Israelites, the contentious Dathan and Aviram at the top of the list. In any case, he was unable to live together with his family and nation, both before and after killing the Egyptian taskmaster whom he saw whipping a Hebrew slave to the brink of death. So he fled until he came upon the house of Jethro, the renegade High Priest of Egypt gone into hiding in Midian. Initially, Moses was rejected by his future father-in-law, too. Thrown into a pit, he was secretly sustained for seven years by Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah. Ultimately, he married his compassionate benefactor, and spent what, in the normal course of events, would have been the rest of his life as a shepherd in the desert. Thus, Moses’s perpetual outsider status struck a chord with the collective exile of Israel.

While tending Jethro’s sheep, Moses reached the age of which the Mishnah states, “At eighty, one attains strength.” At eighty, even one who formerly had been deceived by the illusion of this world sees life as a “fleeting shadow” (Psalms 144:4). All of this seems to have been a prerequisite for Moses’s first prophetic vision.

The vehicle that God chose to summon Moses was the “burning bush that is not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). Seeing the conflagration in the distance, Moses called it “this great sight.” What was so great about it? What did God wish to communicate through this symbol?

The Torah states that God is revealed through fire, as the verse states, “He is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). This accounts for one aspect of Moses’s vision. The desert bush itself is a symbol of humility. As the Talmudic Sages taught, “Wherever you find the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He, there you find His humility.” True greatness is revealed through humility. Therefore, the vision of the burning bush teaches that God reveals Himself only to one who is humble, like Moses.

This interpretation is instructive for us. But why did Moses need to witness this? Didn’t the very fact that he was granted this vision show that he had already attained this level? We must try to consider the meaning of the desert vision from Moses’s point of view.

The fire of the burning bush represents the impermanence of this world. However, the fact that the bush was not consumed suggests that there is something indestructible and enduring within the transitory and ephemeral. Thus, the vision is a symbol of the very paradox of reality: that impermanence and immutability, time and eternity, are one.

At the same time, this may be understood as a vision of Moses himself, a mirror of enlightened being: within the historical “self,” represented by fire, resides the Divine, represented by the unconsumed bush. As the kabbalist Rabbi Shabsai Sheftel Horowitz of Prague (1565-1619) states: “The soul is a portion of God Above.” Thus, it endures forever.

This vision is the gist of the Redemption: the realization of the Divine Oneness that surpasses all change and decay, in which dualism and conflict dissolve, peace reigns, and “death is swallowed up forever” (Isaiah 25:8). Thus the fire of the burning bush may be compared to the tekhelet – the blue thread in the ritual fringes that Jewish men are biblically required to wear on their four-cornered garments. Chassidic master Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) relates the word tekhelet to takhlit, meaning the ultimate goal of creation. Of this, the Zohar (“Book of Splendor”) states that the spiritual power of the blue thread “consumes and destroys.” It is the aspect of holiness that destroys all evil, while giving life to the righteous.

A final question: Why was Moses shown this vision immediately prior to the Exodus? As the Redeemer of Israel, his task was to transmit this perception to the rest of the people. As Moses declared during the incident of Eldad and Medad, “Would that all of God’s people were prophets, if God would but place His spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29)

This depended on Moses in particular, because “Moses is Israel, and Israel is Moses.” All souls are incorporated within the collective souls of the righteous, such as Moses, bound to one another in unity.

This unity, too, is represented by fire. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov observes, “The soul is like a candle, as it is written, ‘The soul of man is the candle of God’ (Proverbs 20:27). When many souls converge, this produces light, which in turn produces joy. This is the paradigm of ‘the light of the righteous brings joy’ (Proverbs 13:9).”

Light shines when the inner unity of all separate minds and all being becomes manifest. This is one aspect of the Redemption. And joy is an aspect of the Redemption, as it is written: “For you shall go forth in joy” (Isaiah 55:12)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Living in the Present Moment

(c) Dovid Sears

Translations by Dovid Sears

One of the lessons of Rosh Hashanah and the festivals is that G-d is present everywhere and in every moment and situation, and that his kingship extends over all. In the words of the Tikkuney Zohar, “Les asar panui miney … There is no place devoid of Him.” An offshoot of this idea is that we may connect to G-d wherever we are and in every moment of our lives. Therefore, we are presenting some Breslov teachings on this theme.

Sichot HaRan 288

Rebbe Nachman

Yesterday and tomorrow are a person's downfall. Today you may be aroused toward G-d. But yesterday and tomorrow pull you away.

No matter where one stands, one suffers reversals. The man who dwells upon yesterday and tomorrow surely will fall away.

The Talmud says, "Repent one day before your death." "Before your death" is your entire life. During your entire lifetime, you may only be worthy of attaining "one day" of teshuvah -- one day of returning to G-d.

This one day is more precious than any treasure. "For what does man gain from all his labor?" Nothing remains of your life other than this one day of teshuvah.

"Repent one day" -- even one day "Before your death" -- during your earthly sojourn.
Forget about yesterday and tomorrow. Today is everything.

Sichot HaRan 51

Rebbe Nachman

It is written: "When you walk, it will comfort you; when you lie down, it will watch over you; and when you awaken, it will comfort you" (Proverbs 6:22).

"When you walk" on this earth, the Torah "will comfort you." "When you lie down" in the grave, G-d and the Torah "will watch over you."

"When you awaken" in the World to Come, "it will comfort you." When you have purified your thoughts, there is no difference between this world, the grave, and the World to Come. When you desire only G-d and His Torah, all are the same. In all three, you may connect to G-d and His Torah. One who is attached to the things of this world will experience a great difference between this world, which is a wide, open place, and the grave, which is a cramped place.

However, if you purify your mind, all will be the same.

Likkutei Halachot, Matanah 5

Reb Noson

Every perceptive person understands that time does not exist. The past is gone, the future has not come, and the present is like the blink of an eye. Thus, the life of a man is only this instant in which he stands.

Consider this, and in whatever circumstance you may find yourself -- even in the depths of Hell --you will be able to cleave to G-d in each moment.

It is written: "See, now, that I, I am He..." (Deuteronomy 32:39).

"See, now," precisely. Through the paradigm of "now," you are able to see that "I, I am He," and begin anew, in each moment, to cleave to G-d.

Likkutei Halachot, Basar B'Chalav 4

Reb Noson

Let all thoughts of yesterday, or even of the immediate past, leave your mind. Instead, you should imagine that you are like a newborn child that came into the world on this very day and hour in order to perceive G-d. As the Torah states: "I have created you today!" (Psalms 2:7)

Although you may think that you have attempted to make a fresh start and sought to encounter G-d thousands and myriads of times without success -- even if you have fallen again and again, down to the very depths -- nevertheless, you must pay no attention to all this.

This hour and this moment in which you stand never existed before. Who knows what can be attained now?

Every day, constantly, G-d in His goodness renews the process of creation, and no instant can be compared to another. Because the heavenly constellations constantly change from one second to the next, every set of circumstances is unlike those that existed a moment earlier or a moment later.

Imagine what transpires from one second to the next in the supernal worlds, which are without limitation or number! Thus, the Tikkunei Zohar(95b) states: "The garment of one day is unlike the garment of another day," as the Arizal explains (Eitz Chaim, Heichal Adam Kadmon, 1:5).

All of these endless cosmic transformations are for the sake of man, to enable him to serve G-d.

This is the reason for everything.

Thus, there is no "proof" from one day to another. Despite what happened in the past, the present moment is entirely new -- created expressly for the sake of humankind. As the Sages state: Each person is obliged to say, "For my sake the world was created." (Sanhedrin 37a)

Right now it is possible to draw near to G-d, if you begin in the here and now.

A Calm, Settled Mind

Rebbe Nachman

The reason why the world is far from G-d, and does not seek to come close to Him is only because people lack yishuv ha-da'as -- a calm, settled mind.

They do not allow the mind to rest. The main thing is that one must strive to attain yishuv ha-da'as, and ask, "What is the end result of all worldly desires and pursuits, whether internal or external, such as honor?" Then, to be sure, one will return to G-d.

However, sadness and melancholy prevent one from directing the mind. Then it is difficult to attain mental focus. This requires simchah - joy - and a positive disposition. For simchah is the "World of Freedom," as the verse states, "They shall go forth in joy..." (Isaiah 55). Through simchah, one becomes liberated and leaves the state of spiritual exile.

To attain simchah, one must find in oneself some good point, as it is written, "I shall sing to my G-d with all my strength (bi-odi)..." (Psalms 146:1). That is, with whatever good point I possess still (ode) [as stated in the lesson "Azamra," Likkutei Moharan I, 282].

By connecting to simchah, a person liberates his very being and consciousness. Then it is possible to attain a calm, settled mind. Even in the supernal worlds, this accomplishes a great unification. (Likkutei Moharan II, 10 (abridged)

A Glimpse of The World to Come

Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender

Reb Isaac Krasenstein once wrote a letter to his son, Reb Hirsch Leib, in which he stated, "My son, what can I tell you? If you wake up every night to recite Tikkun Chatzos, and then learn one teaching from Likkutei Moharan followed by the corresponding prayer from Likkutei Tefilos -- surely the words of our Sages will be fulfilled in you: 'Your World to Come you shall experience here and now, in your physical lifetime!' " (Siach Sarfei Kodesh, Vol. V, 269).


Rebbe Nachman

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi ascended to the Palace of the Mashiach and asked: "When are you coming, master?"

The Mashiach replied: "Today... if only you would listen to His voice!" (Psalms 95:7) (Sanhedrin 98a).

This is a fundamental principle in serving G-d. One should place nothing before his eyes except this day and this hour -- just as in earning a livelihood and attending to one's physical needs, one should not worry from one day to the next.

When one first wishes to enter into Divine service, the task may appear to be extremely onerous. It may seem impossible to bear such a burden. However, if one considers that this is the only day one must do so, the work no longer seems so difficult.

Additionally, one must not put things off from day to day, saying: "Tomorrow I will begin, tomorrow I will pray with mindfulness and enthusiasm, as is proper..." for all that a person has in the world is this one day and this one hour in which he stands. (Likkutei Moharan I, 272)

"This World" and "The World to Come"

Reb Noson

Rabbi Yaakov said: This world is like an antechamber before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the antechamber, so that you may enter the banquet hall. (Avos 4:16) Prepare yourself in the antechamber … That is, in order to perceive the light of G-d in the World to Come, you must find this light within the constraints of this world in every day and every moment! (Likkutei Halakhot, Birkhat Ha-Rei'ah V'Sha'ar Berakhot P'ratiyot 5:11)

Friday, December 29, 2017

UPDATE on 1821 First Edition of Likutey Moharan Parts 1 and 2

The rare copy of Reb Noson's 1821 first edition of both parts of Likutey Moharan in one volume has been sold, according to the auction house, for $15,000.

However, you can own one, too -- for only $35!

An extremely fine facsimile edition, with an English translation of Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burstein's scholarly introduction, was printed a few years ago through the largesse of Dr. Eliyahu Starr. 

It is being sold and distributed by the Breslov Research Institute. Click here to order your copy.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

“Behold, I am Sending an Angel Before You”

(Painting by Marc Chagall)

Reb Noson of Breslov, Likutey Halakhos, Hilkhos Har’sha’ah 3:13
Based on Likutey Moharan I, 15
Posted in honor of Reb Noson’s yahrtzeit, 10 Teves
Translation by Dovid Sears

Connecting to a true tzaddik who can guide us on the spiritual path and initiate us into the depths of Torah wisdom is an essential part of the quest to come closer to Hashem.  Indeed, Chazal advise us to seek instruction from a teacher who is comparable to a “malakh Hashem Tzeva’os,” an “angel of the L-rd of Hosts” (Moed Katan 17a)—a teacher of the highest spiritual caliber. Nevertheless, it is possible for the seeker to go astray in relating to an angel, and implicitly to a holy teacher who is like an angel, as Reb Noson explains here.[i]

A central principle of this teaching is the contrast between the essential Divine Oneness (“Echad”) and the multiplicity that is reflected by the world we ordinarily experience. It is this factor of multiplicity that may lead to a fundamental error in our perception of things, and ultimately to idolatry and heresy.

After the Israelites sinned with the Golden Calf and sought many divine powers (harbeh reshuyos), G-d told Moses, “Behold, I am sending an angel before you…” (Exodus 23:20)—He gave over His power, so to speak, that the angel might lead the Israelites. Moses did not desire this, as it is written, “And he said to Him, “If Your Presence[ii] does not go [with us], do not take us up from here.” Because as soon as G-d delegated power to another being, even a holy angel, since the power was transferred and thus estranged from the Divine Oneness (Echad), this gave [the unholy forces] something to grasp onto, G-d forbid. Thus it became possible, G-d forbid, for power to reach the destructive angel, [which represents] the “fallen fears”[iii] that now are empowered to do harm, G-d forbid.

This possibility only exists through the “many powers” and dominions which proliferate due to transgressions, G-d forbid. [This is reflected by the verse,] “Because of the sin of a land, its princes are many…” (Proverbs 28:2). From [the “many powers”] the klippos[iv] and the Evil Inclination obtain their grasp; and their main grasp is through the heresies which come about only because the Blessed One sometimes empowers a shaliach (emissary or agent) or an angel. As a result, the various heresies and forces of constriction (dinim) are brought into existence, which declare that there are two divine powers, G-d forbid.

As our Sages state of “Acher” [the “Other One,” namely, Elisha ben Avuyah, the heretical Mishnaic sage], who erred through this: “Acher, what did he see [in his mystical vision]? He saw the Angel Metat,[v] who was divinely empowered to sit and record the merits of the Jewish people… and he inferred [that there are two deities]” (Chagigah 15a).

Therefore, when G-d wished to dispatch an angel and give it the power to lead the Israelites, He warned the Israelites to take great care not to go astray through this, G-d forbid. Thus, it is written, “Behold, I am sending an angel before you… Beware of him … and do not rebel (tamer) against him” (Exodus 23:20, 21). On this verse, our Sages expound, “Do not exchange Me (temireni, a word-play on tamer) for him” (Sanhedrin 38b).  For you must beware that you not go astray in the way Acher went astray, by straying into heresies, G-d forbid, since G-d empowered the angel —“for My Name is within him” (ibid.).

For in truth, he possesses no power of his own whatsoever, G-d forbid; whatever he does is only according to My power and as My agent, “for My Name is within him.”

Thus we see that the greater the degree to which power is delegated, even within the bounds of the holy, even [when delegated] to holy angels, this may lead to the forces of evil obtaining a grasp, G-d forbid.

[i] Also see Rebbe Nachman’s words in Likutey Moharan I, 31, sec. 3: “ ‘If the Rav (master) is like an angel of the L-rd of hosts [seek Torah from his mouth]’– for the Rav also must possess the two powers of the Torah, the ‘elixir of life’ and [the opposite], so that it will be possible [for the seeker] to receive according to his will: ‘the righteous will walk in them [i.e., the ways of the Torah], while sinners will stumble in them.’ If one longs to serve G-d, may He be blessed, he will be able to receive from the Rav a straight path by which to serve G-d. But if not, and there is something amiss in his heart (tina yesh bi-libo), he will accordingly be able to find in the Rav something with which he may ‘cut off his roots’ [‘kitzetz bi-netiyos,’ an allusion to Acher, who saw the angel Metat in a vision and concluded that he was a deity unto himself], and become a complete heretic, G-d forbid.” Also see section 4 of the same lesson concerning “the four who ascended to the Pardes (Orchard)” and the error of Acher.

[ii] Literally, “Your Countenance,” which the Targum renders as “Your Shekhinah (Presence).”

[iii] “Fallen fears” are all ego-related fears, which devolve from the “holy fear,” which is fear and awe of Hashem.

[iv] Literally, “husks.” In Lurianic kabbalah, klippos are the forces in creation that conceal the holy, the way the outer husk or rind conceals the inner part of a fruit. They are most dominant in the World of Asiyah (Action), which is the lowest of the Four Worlds.

[v] It is customary neither to pronounce this name in full (Metatron). Various ancient texts point out that “Metatron” has the same gematria as “Shaddai,” a Divine Name. This informs the verse mentioned above, “For My Name is within him” (Exodus 23:21).

Women's Shiur in Borough Park

This Wednesday night (Dec. 27), which is Asarah b'Teves,  there will be a shiur for women at the home of Reb Gershom Aryeh and Rochel Leah Gale in honor of Reb Nosson zt"l. 

Rebbetzin Mark from Monsey will speak. 

Time: 8:15 PM 

Address: 1531 53rd St (front entrance, basement, Gale bell)
Borough Park

RSVP (if possible): 347 909 2821 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

BRI Reb Noson Yahrzeit Tour

(Click on image to enlarge)

Rare First Edition of Likutey Moharan Parts 1 and 2

The 1821 edition of Likutey Moharan, which for the first time combined both Parts 1 and 2, was published by Reb Noson in Breslov, although due to government censorship he used the names of other cities. Copies are extremely rare. 

This copy which once belonged to the Stanislaver Rebbe is now for sale at a rare Judaica auction here.

Reb Noson's Yahrtzeit

This year Asarah beTeves, which is also Reb Noson's yahrtzeit, begins on Wednesday night, December 27  through Thursday, December 28. It is a day-time fast.

On the evening of Asarah beTeves, Reb Noson's yahrtzeit is commemorated by lighting a 24-hour candle and sharing a communal meal. In some Breslov communities it is customary to read the description of Reb Noson's histalkus (passing from the world) from Alim leTerufah (Jerusalem: Toras HaNetzach 2000 ed., pp. 913-918). It is also proper to study an additional portion of Reb Noson's teachings on his yahrtzeit, and to give tzedakah in his name according to one’s means.

The survival of Breslov Chassidus is due to the dedication to the point of mesirus nefesh of Reb Noson and his unique understanding of Rebbe Nachman's teachings, as we seen from his masterwork, Likutey Halakhos. The Rebbe compared their master-disciple relationship to that of the sun and the moon, which reflects the light it has received so that it illuminates the night -- meaning the situations in life that are like the night -- and to Moshe Rabbeinu and Yehoshua bin Nun, who led the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael. The Rebbe also once said, "Were it not for Reb Noson, not a page of my writings would remain."

For the story of Reb Noson's passing in English, see Rabbi Chaim Kramer, "Through Fire and Water" (Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute), Chapter 48.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Experiencing the “World to Come” in This World

Enable us to fulfill the mitzvot of Chanukah with joy: to praise You and bless You, and to recite the full “Hallel” with fervor and delight, in holiness and purity. In Your abundant mercy, You established for us the eight days of Chanukah, so that we might praise and exalt Your great Name; days when we may experience the delight of the World to Come.

Grant us the privilege of truly fulfilling Your mitzvot, until we reach the point of constantly experiencing the delight of the World to Come by praising Your great and holy Name -- especially during the days of Chanukah, which our Sages designate as “days of thanksgiving.”[1]

Then we will come close to You in truth. We will know and perceive You, and we will praise You and bless You in truth forever, for You are entirely good! As it is written, “Praise God for He is good, for His kindness is everlasting!” [2]
(LT II, 2)

[1] Shabbat 21b; also cf. Likutey Moharan II, 2, on which this prayer is based.
[2] Psalms 100:5.