Monday, January 30, 2012

Rabbi Nachman Says… New book by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

(Click on the image above)

This Tuesday: Parshas ha-Mon

Received by email from Reb Dovid Friedman

L’iluy Nishmas Ahron ben Dovid Shimon Halevi, z'l - 9 Kislev 5771
L'iluy Nishmas Moshe Chaim, z'l, ben Velvel Berel, n’y - 8 Kislev 5772

Reb Mendel Riminover’s Segulah

There is a well known custom to say Parshas ha-Mon “shnayim mikra v’echad targum” on the Tuesday of Parshas Beshalach. This year the date will be January 31st / 7th of Shevat. The source for this is the great Chassidishe rebbe, Reb Menachem Mendel of Riminov, according to a tradition that goes back to the Shiniva Rov.

Rav Gamliel Rabinovitz, shlita, cautions that just saying Parshas ha-Mon without having emunah is not what was intended. A segulah for parnasa is supposed to bring us to increase our trust in Hashem. The Ramban at the end of Parshas Bo states that one has no share in the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu until he believes that everything that happens is a miracle, and there is truly no such thing as “nature.” The Mechilta says: “The Torah was only given to those who ate mon.” Based on the Ramban, we can understand this to mean that through internalizing the message of Parshas ha-Mon, we can be worthy of having a share in the Torah.

On the one hand, some people say, “What do you need this segulah for? Just daven to Hashem.” On the other hand, others think they can simply recite this Torah passage and they will automatically get rich.

It doesn’t say anywhere that this is a segulah to get rich. Reb Noson of Breslov explains that the main brochah of parnasa is when one accepts whatever one receives from Hashem with ratzon tov; he is same’akh be-chelko; and he has emunah that this is the will of Hashem, and it is all for his good. He explains further that “only this is called ashirus (wealth) and parnasa (livelihood).” If one has great wealth, but doesn’t have a sense of gratification from it, but always worries about his money and is jealous of people who have more than him, etc., then that is not called wealth (Likutey Halakhos, Netilas Yadayim li-Se’udah 6:85).

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that one should ask Hashem for every single thing he needs; nothing is too great or too trivial to daven for. A person has to receive everything through tefillah. Otherwise, although he may get everything he needs without tefillah, he receives it like an animal (i.e., without intellect) (Sichos HaRan 233). If we don’t get what we want, we need to believe that whatever Hashem does is for our best.

Thus, we should recite the segulah of Parshas ha-Mon as a form of tefillah, with emunah and bitachon in Hashem, Who provides us with whatever we need. May we receive everything with simchah and ratzon tov, like a human being—and may all Klal Yisrael be zokheh to parnosa tovah u’rechavah, amen.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Plague of Darkness

Received from Rabbi Yitzchok Mordechai Feder of Congregation Aish Kodesh, Woodmere, NY:

Regarding the plague of Darkness, the Torah says: "One man did not see his brother, and no one rose up from his place for three days. But for all Bnei Yisrael there was light in their dwellings."

Rav Gamliel Rabinovitch, shlita, explains this passuk as follows: Because "one man did not see his brother," meaning, that among the Egyptians there was no achdus (unity), therefore, "no one rose up..." They couldn't stand up by themselves, midah k'neged midah ("measure for measure").

"But for all Bnei Yisrael" - indicating that they were united with achdus, all together--"there was light in their dwellings." Even when there was darkness all around, since they had unity, they merited having light in their dwellings!

Kavod HaBriyos / Honoring All Creatures

(c) Dovid Sears

Selections from the first chapters of Compassion for Humanity with additional material newly translated for this posting.

Ben Zoma used to say: Who is wise? One who learns from all people … Who is honored? One who honors all people (Mishnah: Avos 4:1).


[Ben Azzai] used to say: Do not regard anyone with contempt, and do not reject anything, for there is no person who does not have his hour and nothing that does not have its place (Mishnah: Avos 4:3).


[Rabbi Chaninah ben Dosa] used to say: Whoever is pleasing to his fellow creatures is pleasing to God; but whoever is displeasing to his fellow creatures, God is not pleased with him (Mishnah: Avos 3:10).

Commentary: The Mishnah uses the term “fellow creatures,” not members of one’s own nation, in order to include all humanity and all creatures, whether of one’s own nation or another, whether an individual or a group. Our rabbis have clearly stated that there is no difference in this regard between Jews and non-Jews (Rabbi Pinchas Eliyahu Horowitz of Vilna, Sefer HaBris II, 13:6).


One should always be pleasant to all human beings, hastening to offer them greetings and seeking their honor and benefit to the best of one’s ability. This will cause one to be beloved by others, and inspire them to honor the Torah and its precepts (Rabbi Menachem Meiri, Beis HaBechirah on Berakhos 6b).


[One should] respect all creatures, recognizing in them the greatness of the Creator who formed man with wisdom, and whose wisdom is contained in all creatures. He should realize that they greatly deserve to be honored, since the Former of All Things, the Wise One who is exalted above all, cared to create them. If one despises them, God forbid, it reflects upon the honor of their Creator.

This may be likened to an expert goldsmith who fashions a vessel with great skill, but when he displays his work, someone begins to mock and scorn it. How angry that goldsmith will be; for by disparaging his handiwork, one disparages his wisdom. Similarly, it is evil in the sight of the Holy One, blessed be He, if any of His creatures is despised.

This is the meaning of the verse, “How many are your works, O Lord” (Psalms 104:24). The Psalmist did not say “how vast” but “how many (rav).” [The Hebrew word rav also denotes importance,] as in the phrase “rav beiso” (Esther 1:8), meaning “of high status.” Since you imbued them all with your wisdom, Your works are important and great, and it befits one to contemplate the wisdom in them and not disparage them (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Tomer Devorah, chap. 2).


Divine Wisdom gives life to all things, as it is written, “Wisdom gives life to all who possess it” (Ecclesiastes 7:12). Thus, one should instruct the entire world in the ways of life, helping others to attain life in this world and in the World to Come, and providing them with the means of life. As a matter of principle, one should give life to all beings (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Tomer Devorah, chap. 3).


Love of all creatures is also love of God. For whoever loves the One, loves the works He has made. When one loves God, it is impossible not to love His creatures. [And the converse is true:] If one hates the creatures, it is impossible to love God (Maharal of Prague, Nesivos Olam, “Ahavas Rei’a,” 1).


All of the commandments between one person and another are included in the precept of loving one’s neighbor (Rabbi Pinchas Eliyahu Horowitz of Vilna, Sefer HaBris II, 13:31).


The root of the obligation to be considerate is our obligation to a person because he is a person (Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, Michtav me-Eliyahu, Vol. IV, p. 246).

New quotes:

If a person inflicts pain on another, it is as though he inflicts pain on the entire world because [man is a small-scale universe]. Everything that exists in the universe is present in man (Avos de-Rabbi Noson 31) (Rabbi Yehudah HeChasid, Sefer Chasidim 44 (300 in English edition); trans. Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Finkel).


A person who studies the Torah’s laws regarding infectious skin rashes should not spit out in disgust, since this would mean “showing contempt for God’s word” (Numbers 15:31). If he sees people afflicted with skin diseases, he should not demonstrate his loathing, because health and sickness are in the hands of the Creator, and all men are God’s creatures (Rabbi Yehudah HeChasid, Sefer Chasidim 636 (310 in English edition); trans. Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Finkel).


Human dignity (kavod ha-briyos) is important enough to overrride a negative commandment of the Torah (Talmud: Berakhos 19b).

(This was stated regarding a person who discovers that his outer garment is made of shatnez, a forbidden mixture of wool and linen, while walking in a public place. He is permitted to wear the garment until he can don another, due to kavod ha-briyos. However, we cannot apply this principle indiscriminately.)


“God said to Moshe [concerning Miriam]: If her father were to spit in her face, would she not be disgraced for seven days? Let her be quarantined outside the camp for seven days…” (Numbers 12:14). The Targum renders “If her father spat in her face…” as “if her father rebuked her.” This is because it is unthinkable that a father would spit on his daughter (see Sifre, ad loc.).


Concerning the rite of chalitzah, the severance of marital obligations between a man and his widowed sister-in-law, the Talmudic sages did not take the Torah’s words at face value. The Torah states: “Then his brother’s widow shall approach him in the sight of the elders, remove the sandal from his foot, and spit in his face” (Deuteronomy 25:9). The Sifre (ad loc., 159) comments: “Could she literally spit in his face? The verse states ‘in the sight of the elders’—meaning, the spittle can be seen by the elders.” Thus, Rashi (ad loc.) comments that the widow “spits on the ground”—not in his face.


The Jewish people in particular—and as a whole—have a special closeness to God, as attested by our having received the Torah at Mount Sinai. Thus, the Jewish people have been empowered to become a “light unto the nations,” when we live up to our Divine mandate.

Rebbe Nachman once said that he sensed heaven’s decrees concerning the Jewish people before other tzadddikm. “The reason for this,” he explained, “is because I know my true lowliness, and as a result I know the great loftiness and holiness of the Jewish people—how precious and exalted they are. For they were drawn from a most awesome and exalted place. This is why I know everything that has been decreed before others.” Reb Noson, who wrote down these remarks, adds: “In the merit of the Rebbe, may God take pity on us and annul all harsh decrees and turn everything to the good” (Chayei Moharan, 276, abridged).

And in the merit of Rebbe Nachman, may we too appreciate “the true greatness and holiness of the Jewish people, and how precious and exalted they are in God’s eyes,” male and female, religious or secular or anywhere in between—as well as all human beings who are created be-tzelem Elokim, in the Divine Image, amen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Art of Miriam Shaw

Miriam Shaw of Prestwich, Manchester, UK, is a gifted multimedia artist, musician, craftswoman and film-maker.

A few years ago, she created a "flash movie" out of one of Rebbe Nachman's stories, "The Lost Princess," based on an illustrated children's version published by the Breslov Research Institute.
She also created a flash movie about the Baal Shem Tov for our Breslov Center.

A few samples of Miriam's wonderful art appears on these web pages:

Miriam's art can be purchased online via these sites.

She also is available for commissions.

Please contact her through her art website here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Remembering the True Goal

(c) Dovid Sears

Remembering the True Goal
Reb Noson, Sichot HaRan (English: Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom) #51
Newly translated by Rabbi Ozer Bergman
(c) Breslov Research Institute

This world has no purpose but to draw one towards the eternal goal.

Do not be concerned with whether or not you have money, because either way, your days will pass. The world deceives us completely. It makes a person think that he is constantly profiting, but in the end there is nothing. People spend years in business, but are left empty-handed.

Even one who attains wealth is taken away from it. A person and money cannot endure together. Either the money is taken from the person, or the person is taken from the money.

There has never been an instance of a person remaining with his money.

Where is all the money that people have been making since the beginning of time? People have always been making money—where is it all? It is really absolutely nothing.

“And serving God? I don't know of anyone who can claim that he serves God according to His greatness. Anyone who has an inkling of God's greatness—I don't understand how he can claim to serve God! Not even the highest angels can boast that they truly serve God. The main thing is desire. Always yearn to approach God.

Many want to serve God, but the degrees of desire are not the same. Even an individual's level of desire is constantly fluctuating. The main thing is the will and longing, to yearn for God. From this one prays, studies and keeps His mitzvot.”

(In fact, however, according to God's greatness, all these practices are nothing. They are merely “pretend,” because relative to God's greatness they are a comedy, a farce.)

Sophistication is worthless; only artlessness and simplicity [have value]. Even in one's artlessness, it is forbidden to be foolish. But sophistication is totally unnecessary (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom, #19).

It is not good to be old (cf. Alim l’Terufah ##210, 255, 276, 350); even to be an old chassid or an old tzaddik is not good. You must renew yourself each day, always making a fresh start. There is something that improves with age—the Talmud teaches that a pig becomes stronger as it grows older (Shabbat 77b).

Reckless abandon, too, is unnecessary.

“I don't consider serving God fanaticism. On the contrary, those who pursue worldly goals and are distant from serving God are the true fanatics. Nevertheless, even what society considers fanaticism—totally abandoning all worldly pursuits to involve oneself solely in Divine worship—is also unnecessary. One can be a kosher person without fanaticism (see Likutey Halakhot, Nikhsey HaGer 3:1).

“Take it from me: Do not let the world fool you. Do not let it deceive you, because no one ever had a happy ending from this world. Every person, even those who acquired all it has to offer, met a bitter fate. The harm and loss is not only theirs, but also of future generations.

“Non-Jews, as well, need to know this: If the world is nothing, what can one do? To answer this, one must have help from on high. But Israel needs no further help, for the Torah has already taught us (see Likutey Halakhot, P’ru u’Revu 3:34).

“The world says there's no need to seek greatness. But I say that you should seek only greatness. Search specifically for the greatest possible tzaddik.” It is already elaborated in his works the necessity for seeking the greatest tzaddik and teacher (see Likutey Moharan I, Lesson #30).

Concerning the passions that unsettle a person: Eating and drinking are bodily necessities. One must likewise beget children This is human necessity, not desire. These are not extravagances, just needs that have to be accomplished in holiness and purity.

The human mind can withstand any temptation because the Blessed Holy One “gives wisdom to the wise” (Daniel 2:21). Every person has the potential of wisdom, but he must develop it. The innate potential alone, without that which God later adds, is sufficient to enable one to withstand all temptations.

One may have succumbed to desire and sinned in many ways. One may have blemished his intellect, making it weak and confused. But one still has some mind, and this alone can overcome all desires. One grain of intelligence can overcome the world and all its temptations.

And wherever one is, one can be near to God. Even if one finds himself in the pit of Hell, God forbid, he can approach God and truly serve Him (Likutey Moharan, Lesson #6; Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom, #302).

Rebbe Nachman said, “For this one needs either God's mercy or tremendous effort or both,” before meriting the settling of the dregs of the mind. Then he will not want anything in this world. Everything will be the same to him.

“When you walk, she will guide you; when you lie down, she will watch over you; when you awake, she will comfort you” (Proverbs 6:22). For “when you walk, she”—the Torah—“will guide you.” “When you lie down”—in the grave”—“she will protect you,” for God and the Torah are in the grave as well. Finally, “when you awake” in the World to Come, “she will comfort you” (Avot 6:9). When one desires only God and His Torah and nothing else, everything is the same to him. Whether he is in this world, the grave or the World to Come he clings to God and His Torah.

But for someone attached to this world, there is a significant difference. This world is broad and spacious; the grave is tight and cramped. But for one with a purified mind, with all the dregs removed, all will be the same.

Ricky Nachman Fahrner's New CD

This may not be exactly what you'd expect from a Breslover Chasid and semichah candidate, who has been learning in yeshivah for many years and studied under the likes of Reb Michel Dorfman, zal, yibadel bein chaim l'chaim, and was a chavrusa with Rabbi Shimon Shapira, shlita.

You see, Nachman Fahrner has been playing since his childhood (before he made aliyah 12 years ago): 40s and 50s Swing, Blues, and Rockabilly. He describes these styles as his musical "mamaloshn," which he has applied Rebbe Nachman's teachings, particularly that of hisbodedus: speaking to HaShem in one's own words, in Nachman Fahrner's case, playing music as well.

And as you can hear for yourself, he's great at it!

Here's a link to his website and Facebook page:


For a few samples of his music, please visit:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Thrown Stone

Submitted to the Breslov Center by email.

Rabbi Dror Moshe Cassouto, a 33-year-old Breslover Hasid, lives with his wife and four sons in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim, one of the centers of Haredi life in Israel. He never looks directly at a woman other than his wife, and he believes that men and women have roles in nature that in modern society have been reversed “because we live in darkness.” His goal is to spread the light. “God watches over the Jewish nation as long as it studies Torah,” he said. Still, the spitting incidents and Nazi talk horrify him. He says hard-liners have caused harm to the Haredim. Asked about the recent troubles, Rabbi Cassouto shook his head and said, "A fool throws a stone into a well and 1,000 sages can't remove it."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Baal Shem Tov on Ahavas Yisrael

Drawing of rabbi with Torah by Hyman Bloom

Ahavas Yisrael / Love of the Jewish People

In response to recent news from Eretz Yisrael, we are posting a few excerpts from the opening section of “The Path of the Baal Shem Tov,” with minor modifications. Sources include both early and later Chassidic traditions, including several from Chabad.

Ahavas Yisrael is the first gate which leads to the courtyard of the Creator (Likutey Dibburim II, p. 412).


The Baal Shem Tov once reproached an itinerant preacher who had delivered a fiery sermon to a group of simple villagers. “How can you speak evil of the Jewish people?” he cried. “All day long a Jew trudges through the marketplace until dusk, when he becomes anxious and says, ‘It’s getting late for minchah (the afternoon prayer).’ So he runs off somewhere to pray and doesn’t even know what he is saying—but nevertheless, the very angels tremble at his words” (Shivchey Baal Shem Tov 128).


The Maggid of Mezeritch taught: The Baal Shem Tov often used to say that love of the Jewish people is the same thing as love of God. The verse states, “You are children unto the Lord, your God.” When one loves the father, one loves the children (HaYom Yom, p. 81).


“Israel in whom I will praise Myself…“ (Isaiah 49:3). God cannot be [adaquately] praised—for who can comprehend His Essence? Therefore, God brought the Jewish people into existence in order to praise Himself. Just as a father praises himself because of his children, so does the Holy One, Blessed be He, praise Himself because of Israel (Sefer Baal Shem Tov, Ki Savo 4, citing Kisvey Kodesh).

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)—this is a reflection of the mitzvah, “You shall love the Lord, your God.” When one loves another Jew, he loves the Holy One, blessed be He. For the soul of a Jew is a “portion of God Above,” and when one loves a fellow Jew, he loves his innermost essence. Thus, he loves the Holy One, blessed be He, as well (HaYom Yom 78).


[God told Avraham: I Look to the heavens and count the stars ... Thus shall be your offspring” (Genesis 15:15). The Baal Shem Tov explained: The stars appear very small, but in heaven they are really very large. The same is true of the Jewish people. In this world, they appear very small. But in the Supernal World, they are really very great (Rabbi Zvi Hirsch of Ziditchov, Beis Yisrael, Lekh Lekha 36, cited in Sefer Baal Shem Tov, Lekh Lekha 27).


The Baal Shem Tov taught: The Holy One, blessed be He, sends a soul to the world to live seventy or eighty years, just to do another Jew a favor, materially in general or spiritually in particular (Likutey Dibburim, Vol. III, p. 1126, cited in Kesser Shem Tov, Hosafos, 130).


The Baal Shem Tov said that a heartfelt chapter of Tehillim; the effort expended in doing another Jew a favor, whether material or spiritual; and love of one’s fellow Jew are keys which can unlock the gates to the Heavenly Palaces of mercy, healing, salvation and livelihood (Sefer HaSichos 5700, p. 73, cited in Keser Shem Tov, Hosafos, 127).


The Baal Shem Tov taught: God loves every Jew as if he were an only child, born to his parents in their old age and even more (Likutey Sichos, Vol. III, p. 982).


The Baal Shem Tov once said: “When a Jew sighs in compassion for the grief of another Jew, this breaks through even the most impenetrable barriers of those who denounce us Above. And when a Jew enthusiastically shares in another Jew’s rejoicing and blesses him, God receives it like the prayer of Rabbi Yishmael Kohen Gadol in the Holy of Holies” (Sefer HaSichos 5703).


The entire Jewish people are one. [This collectivity] has a physical aspect (chomer) and spiritual aspect (tzurah). And just as the body needs the soul, so does the soul need the body. Therefore, [one who is in the category of tzurah should not separate himself from [those who are in the category of chomer]; rather, he should bind himself to them and watch over them with a compassionate eye in order to return them to the ways of virtue (Toldos Yaakov Yosef, Kedoshim).


The Baal Shem Tov once told his disciple, the Rav of Kolomaye (father of the tzaddik, Rabbi Nachman of Kolomaye), “I love the Jew whom you might consider to be the lowest of the low more than you love your only son” (Leket Imrey Peninim 208b).


“ ‘All nations shall praise you, for yor you shall be a land of delight,’ says the Lord of Hosts” (Malachi 3:12). The Baal Shem Tov taught: Just as the greatest wise men cannot fathom all the treasures of nature with which God has endowed the earth—for everything comes from the earth—similarly, no one can apprehend all the treasures the Jewish people contain; for they are God’s “land of delight.” I would like to enable the Jewish people to yield the kind of produce which God’s “land of delight” can surely give (HaYom Yom, p. 54, cited in Keser Shem Tov, Hosafos 44).


We have added a teaching that does not come from that the Baal Shem Tov, but from his great-grandson, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. It has been newly translated for this website:

Rebbe Nachman taught: You should always search for whatever merit and good points that may be found in the Jewish people. Judge every person according to the scale of merit—even those who oppose you and scorn you. By doing so, you will constantly be saved from strife. Moreover, through this you will create a “crown” for the Blessed One, adorned with many types of gems [which are the good points] (Likutey Eitzos, Machlokes u-Merivah, 2).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On World Peace

From “Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition

The world reflects the original intent of the Creator only when there is peace among all creatures (Midrash: Bamidbar Rabbah 21:1).


When the Messiah is revealed to Israel, the first thing he will do is establish peace. Thus, it is written: “How welcome upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace” (Isaiah 52:7). (Baraisa: Derech Eretz Zuta, Perek HaShalom).


Rav Safra, after completing his formal prayers, used to say: “May it be Your will, 0 Lord, our God, to make peace among the Supernal Family and the Lower Family, as well as among the disciples who engage in [the study of] Your Torah (Talmud: Berakhos 16b 17a).

Commentary: “The Supernal Family.” The assembly of angels who preside over the nations of the world. When there is a dispute among the presiding angels in the supernal realm, there immediately ensues a dispute among the nations. Thus, [the angel told the Prophet Daniel], “And now I shall return to engage in battle with the angel of Persia” (Daniel 10:20). “The Lower Family”—the assembly of the wise (Rashi, ad loc.).


“And Jacob said to them, ‘My brothers, where are you from?’ “ (Genesis 29:4). From here we learn that a person should always include himself with others and address them as “brothers” and “friends.” He should hasten to greet them with greetings of peace. Then the angels of peace and mercy will treat him in similar fashion from above (Midrash HaGadol on Bereshis 29:4).


Great is peace, for with peace the Holy One, blessed be He, will announce the Redemption of Israel, and with peace He will console Jerusalem (Midrash: Devarim Rabbah 5:15).


See how beloved is peace: when the Holy One, blessed be He, wished to bless Israel, He could not find a vessel great enough to contain their blessings except for peace (Midrash: Devarim Rabbah 5:15).


See how great is the power of peace: the Holy One, blessed be He, instructed [Israel] even to address their enemies first with words of peace (Midrash Tanchumah, Shoftim 18).


“Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalms 34:15). That is, seek peace in its place; pursue it when it is elsewhere (Jerusalem Talmud: Pe’ah 1:1).


In the world’s present state, it is permissible to flatter the wicked for the sake of peace (Midrash: Yalkut Shimoni, Vayishlach 133).


The stones [of the Holy Temple] neither see nor hear, nor do they speak; but, since they make peace between Israel and their Father in Heaven, the Holy One, blessed be He, forbid striking them with iron implements. A person who makes peace between a husband and wife, one family and another, one city and another, one country and another, how much more should he be protected from all harm (Baraisa: Toras Kohanim, Kedoshim 20).


The purpose of the entire Torah is to establish peace, as it is written, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Talmud: Gittin 59b, citing Proverbs 3:17).


We must provide livelihood for the non Jewish poor as well as for the Jewish poor; we must visit non Jews when they are sick as well as our fellow Jews when they are sick; and we must attend to the burial of their dead as well as the burial of our own dead; for these are the ways of peace (Talmud: Gittin 61a).


Elijah the Prophet [the harbinger of the Messiah] will not come to distance people or to draw them closer, but to make peace between them (Mishnah: Eidiyus 8:7).


Hillel used to say: Be of the disciples of Aaron—love peace and pursue peace, love all creatures and bring them near to the Torah (Mishnah: Avos 1:12).

Midrash: If a person “loves peace and pursues peace” and restores peace, the Holy One, blessed be He, will grant him life in this world and in the World to Come (Baraisa: Derech Eretz Zuta 9, Perek HaShalom).

Commentary: The term “creatures” instead of “people” implies that Aaron would even reach out to individuals whose only redeeming virtue was the fact that God created them (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Likutey Sichos, Kedoshim 5727 / 1967).


One who repudiates peace, repudiates the Divine name (Zohar III, 176b).


People might say, “Here is food, here is drink,” but if there is no peace, all else is worthless. The verse states, “And I have given peace to the land” (Leviticus 26:6). This teaches us that peace is equivalent to everything (Baraisa: Toras Kohanim, Bechukosai 1:1).


[The Torah forbids Jews to cultivate the land of Israel during the Sabbatical Year.] It is permissible to encourage non Jews [engaged in such labors] during the Sabbatical Year, but not Jews. Moreover, it is proper to offer them greetings in order to promote peace (Talmud: Gittin 61a).

Commentary: The Talmud explains that it is forbidden to actually assist them in their labors, but one may encourage them verbally For instance, if one sees non Jews at work in the fields, one may say to them, “May God give you strength,” or “May you be successful,” etc., since they do not transgress in performing such labors. One may offer them greetings on their holidays, even if they are associated with idolatry. One may even greet them with God’s name, as the rabbis state, for “Peace” (Shalom) is one of God’s names (Rabbi Menachem Meiri, ad loc.).


A person should always seek peace with his brothers, relatives, and all men, including gentiles in the marketplace, in order that he may be beloved above, well liked below, and acceptable to his fellow creatures. It was said of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai that no one ever preceded him in offering greetings of peace, even a non Jew in the marketplace (Talmud: Berachos 17a).


Our Sages taught: One’s mind should always be imbued with fear of God, his speech should be soft, turning away anger, and he should promote peace—with his father, his mother, his teacher, his comrade, and also with the non Jew in the marketplace—that he may be beloved above and well liked below. Thus, he will be favorably received by all creatures, and all his days will be filled with good (Midrash: Tanna D’vei Eliyahu Zuta 1:1).


Concerning non Jews, our Sages commanded us to visit their sick, to bury their dead, just as we bury the dead of the Jewish people, and to provide them with livelihood, just as we provide our fellow Jews with livelihood; for these are the ways of peace (Gittin 61a). Thus, the verse states: “God is good to all, and His mercies are upon all His works” (Psalms 145:9). And [of the Torah] it states: “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are of peace” (Proverbs 3:17). (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 10:12).


Rabbi Yosef Saragossi, the teacher of Rabbi David Ibn Zimra, was devoted to making peace between men, between husbands and wives, and even between non Jews. Therefore, he merited that the soul of the Prophet Elijah appeared before him [to initiate him into the mysteries of the Torah] (Rabbi Elazar Azkari, Sefer Chareidim 8).


To the extent that there is peace in the world, mankind can be brought to serve God with one accord. Because of the peace that exists between people, they are able to enter into dialogue with one another and together think about the purpose of the world and its vanities. They can discuss the truth with one anotherthat ultimately nothing will remain of a person but the preparations he makes for the Eternal World. “Nothing accompanies a man neither silver nor gold nor precious gems nor pearls, but only Torah and good deeds” (Avos 6:9). By realizing this, each person will cast away his false gods of silver and turn to the Creator, His Torah, and Divine service; he will bring himself to the truth. However, when there is no peace, God forbid, or, worse, when there is actual strife, people cannot get together and discuss the ultimate purpose of life. Even when, on occasion, they do meet and talk to one another, [if someone speaks the truth] his words are not heard due to the climate of jealousy, conflict, spite, and disdain. Aggression and the desire to win arguments cannot bear the truth. Thus, the main thing that keeps most people far from the Creator is strife, which has become widespread because of our many sins. May God have mercy upon us (Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Likutey Eitzos, Shalom 4; also see Likutey Moharan 1:27).


“God is good for everything, and His mercies are upon all His works” (Psalms 145:9).

Commentary: “God is good for everything.”‘ This alludes to prayer. A person who believes in God knows that He is “good for everything”—healing, sustenance, or whatever one needs. Therefore, he will direct his efforts primarily toward God (i.e., through prayer) and not be taken up with various strategies. One who doesn’t believe in God, however, will pursue all sorts of mundane solutions to his problems. For example, if such a person becomes sick, he will pursue all sorts of medical treatments. The herbs required may not be available locally, or the local varieties may be of inferior quality. However, “God is good for everything.” No matter from which ailment one needs to be healed, God is always available.

Prayer leads to universal peace. Thus, the verse concludes, “And His mercies are upon all His works.” [When people turn to God as the ultimate power,] Divine mercy will be drawn forth to all creatures. Consequently, all creatures will have mercy upon one another, and there will be peace among them. As it is written, “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. . . . They shall not harm or destroy” (Isaiah 11:6, 9), for there will be peace between them. Thus, “His mercies are upon all His works.” [In other words, God will instill mercy in the hearts of all creatures, and they will treat each other accordingly.] As our Sages teach, “Whoever shows mercy to God’s creatures is granted mercy from Heaven” (Shabbos 151b). [This is borne out by] the scriptural verse, “And [God] will give you mercy, and He will have mercy upon you” (Deuteronomy 13:18) (Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Likutey Moharan 1, 14: 11, abridged. The verse from Psalms is usually rendered, “God is good to all.” However, Rebbe Nachman interprets it as translated here.)


“Behold, for peace I had great bitterness” (Isaiah 38:17). Just as all cures require bitter remedies, so does peace, which is a cure for everything. [As the Prophet Isaiah also states,] “Peace, peace to the far and near, says God, and I will heal him” (Isaiah 57:19) (Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Likutey Moharan I, 27:7).


On the subject of wars between nations and needless bloodshed, [Rebbe Nachman] said: “Many foolish beliefs that people once held, such as forms of idol worship that demanded childsacrifice, etc., have disappeared. But, as of yet, the foolish belief in the pursuit of war has not disappeared.” He used to ridicule certain scientists, saying: “What great thinkers they must be, what ingenuity they must possess to invent amazing weapons that can kill thousands of people at once! is there any greater foolishness than this to murder so many people for nothing?” (Chayei Moharan 546).


Rebbe Nachman of Breslov predicted, “The Messiah will conquer the world without a shot being fired” (Siach Sarfei Kodesh 11, 1:67).


We have added an additional teaching that was not included in “Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition,” but has been newly translated for this website:

The whole world is filled with quarreling—between nations, between cities, and between households. Neighbors argue with neighbors, husbands argue with their wives, their children and domestic helpers, and on and on. Nobody thinks about the ultimate goal of life. Every day man dies—because the day that has passed will never come back, and every day one comes closer to death. Therefore, how can he waste his time on arguments? Anyone who has any sense should take this to heart and develop patience. Let him not waste his life on quarrels, great or small. He should control his feelings and his anger, and live peacefully with everyone (Rebbe Nachman, as presented in Likutey Eitzos, Machlokes u-Merivah, 36; this is a variant of Sichos HaRan 77. Cf. the posting “The World is Full of Strife” below).

The Prankster

Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, "Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom" (Breslov Research Institute)

Sichos HaRan 8

The Evil Urge is like a prankster running through a crowd showing his tightly closed hand.

No one knows what he is holding. He goes up to each one and asks, "What do you suppose I have in my hand?"

Each one imagines that the closed hand contains just what he desires most. They all hurry and run after the prankster. Then, when he has tricked them all into following him, he opens his hand. It is complete­ly empty.

The same is true of the Evil One. He fools the world, tricking it into following him. All men think that his hand contains what they desire. But in the end, he opens his hand. There is nothing in it, and no desire is ever fulfilled.

Worldly pleasures are like sunbeams in a dark room. They may actually seem solid, but one who tries to grasp a sunbeam finds nothing in his hand. The same is true of all worldly desires.

© 1973 The Breslov Research Institute

Beaten Willow Branch Segulah

We recently received this message from Rabbi Shmuel Rosenberg, AKA "Sofer of Tzfat":

Beaten willow branches are known for their many Segulahs.

Please take a look at our new Segulah page

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rebbe Nachman on “Wedding Customs”

(Painting by Elena Flerova)

Rebbe Nachman on “Wedding Customs” [1]

Sichos HaRan 86 / “Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom” (Breslov Research Institute 1974)

Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, with minor corrections and modifications for this website.

Please note that these customs reflect the Jewish culture of Rebbe Nachman’s Ukraine more than two hundred years ago. Some things have changed. We have posted this teaching in honor of the wedding of Rabbi Moshe Nachman Weiss, son of Rabbi and Mrs. Ephraim Zev Weiss, and Shifra, daughter of Rabbi and Mrs. Avraham Moshe Wasilski, to be celebrated on Monday evening, 22 Teves / January 16th in Williamsburg. May both families and the entire Breslover community have much nachas and simchah!

It is customary that people get up and say humorous things at a wedding. It is also customary to begin by saying “ Ehla—Rise!”

The Talmud says, “A woman may rise with her husband, but does not descend with him. “[2]

People say, “Rise!” along with the humor, for the bride will rise with her husband with every joy and pleasure, but not descend with him.[3]

It is customary to cover the bride's face with a veil. Rachel is “the beautiful girl who has no eyes.”[4] This is the bride.

It is written (Proverbs 25:2), “G-d's glory is to hide a thing.” This also speaks of the bride.[5]

It is customary to throw baked goods at the groom. It is written (Ezekiel 1:20), “Wherever the spirit went, the Ophanim were lifted up.”[6]

An Ophan is an angel. Baked goods are Ophin. The similar spelling indicates a similarity in essence.

The groom is the paradigm of the “spirit.”[7] Wherever the groom goes, baked goods are lifted up.[8]

It is customary to give money to the dancers at a wedding. This is called “Sabbath Money.”

It is written (Psalms 68:1.3), “Hosts of angels[9] throng and whirl, and she who stays home divides the spoil.”[10]

The dancers throng and whirl. When they are given money, they “divide the spoil.”

The revelation at Sinai was a wedding. It is written (Song of Songs 3:11), “His mother crowned him on the day of his wedding.” This is the revelation at Sinai.[11]

Mount Sinai is also a ladder.

Take the letters of the word SINaI and turn them into numbers. The Gematria then gives you SuLaM (ladder)

Samech = 60
Yud = 10
Nun = 50
Yud = 10
Total: 130

SuLaM - Ladder:
Samech = 60
Lamed = 30
Mem = 40
Total: 130

This is the ladder in Jacob's dream.

It is written (Genesis 28:12), “And behold a ladder ... and angels of G-d went up and down on it.”
The dancers go up and down, raising and lowering their bodies. They dance on the ladder of Sinai—the day of the wedding.

The money given to the dancers is called “Sabbath Money.”

It is written, “She who stays home divides the spoil.” This is the money given the dancers, as mentioned earlier.

In Hebrew, this verse is U’Nevas Bayis V’chalek Shalel. The first letters of the words spell out ShaBaT - the Sabbath.[12]

It is customary for the groom to give a scholarly discourse. It is written, “His mother crowned him on the day of his wedding.” The wedding is the revelation at Sinai. The groom speaks words of Torah, just like G-d did at Sinai.

It is customary to present the groom with gifts. These are called Derashah Geshank— ”Discourse Gifts.”

It is written (Psalms 68:19), “You have ascended on high, you have captured the prize, you have received gifts from among men.” These are the gifts given to the groom.

It is said that the groom's lecture helps to unite the couple.

Before Jacob saw the dream of the ladder, it is written (Genesis 28:11), “And he lay down in that place.”

“And he lay down” is VaYiShKav. This also spells Vi-Yesh Kaf-Beis— ”and there are 22.” These are the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet.[13]

The lecture unites 22 letters into words of Torah, just as the couple is united.[14]

It is customary for the dancers to do Pristakes, raising and lowering their bodies.

It is written (Genesis 46:4), “1 will go down to Egypt with you, and I will bring you up.” This is symbolized by the up and down motions.

“I will go down with you to Egypt.” The exile in Egypt was to gather together the holy sparks from Adam's wasted seed.[15]

“I will bring you up.” When Israel left Egypt this was accomplished and the Covenant of Abraham was rectified.

A wedding is also a rectification of the Covenant.[16]

We therefore dance to symbolize the exile and redemption.

It is customary to interrupt the bridegroom's lecture. This symbolizes the breaking of the Tablets.

It is customary for the best man to dress the bridegroom in the Kittel, a plain white linen robe.

It is written (Ibid.) “And Joseph will place his band on your eyes.” The son closes his father's eyes upon death.”[17]

Joseph is the best man.[18]

The Kittel is the garment of the dead.[19] It is Joseph who makes this preparation for death.
It is customary for the dancers to do somersaults.

The revelation at Sinai was a wedding. There it is written (Exodus 19:3), “And Moses went up.” It is also written (ibid. 19:20), “And G-d descended onto Mount Sinai.” Sinai then involved “the superior below and the inferior above.”[20] Thus the dancers engage in somersaults.


[1] These reasons were revealed to Rabbi Yudel and Rabbi Shmuel Isaac on Shemini Atzeres 5563 (Oct. 17, 1802), just a few weeks after the Rebbe arrived in Breslov. This was also just a few months before the wedding of his daughter Sarah. On the Sabbath after the wedding, 3 Nissan (Mar. 25, 1803), he delivered the lesson in Likutey Moharan I, 49, also discussing these same customs. Parparos LeChokhmah a.l., Shevachey Moharan 6a (23).

[2] Kesubos 48a, 61a.

[3] A somewhat different reason is given in Likutey Moharan I, 49:7.

[4] Zohar II, 95a, Netzutzey Oros a.l., Pri Etz Chaim, Keriyas Sh'ma, end of chap. 24. Rachel is the true bride of Zer Anpin, the transcendental groom. She has such pure faith that she is blind to anything that may question it. See Likutey Moharan I, 62:5, above, 32.

[5] ”Glory” always refers to Malkhus or Royalty, which in the Kabbalah is personified by the transcendental bride, Rachel.

[6] The wording in the Hebrew text is somewhat different than the actual scripture.

[7] We have emended Rabbi Kaplan's translation here (ed.).

[8] Of the parts of the soul, Ruach or spirit is the counterpart of Zer Anpin, the groom. The Ophanim are angels of Asiyah, the lowest supernal world, which also corresponds to the feminine element. Throwing baked goods thus unites male and female. Also see Likutey Halakhos (Even HaEzer), Kiddushin 2:8.

[9] The Biblical reading here is Malkhey, kings. Here, however, the Talmudic reading of Shabbos 68b is used, namely Malakhey, angels. A number of other places indicate that the verse actually speaks of angels, cf. Mechilta to Exodus 20:16; Shemos Rabbah 33:4; Devarim Rabbah 7:10, 11:3. This is resolved by a statement that the verse actually refers to the archangels, the “kings of angels”; cf. BaMidbar Rabbah 11:5; Shir HaShirim Rabbah 11:12; Koheles Rabbah 9:12; Paneach Raza, Yisro, p. 114b.

[10] See Alim LeTerufah 397.

[11] Ta'anis 4:8 (26b).

[12] Cf. Likutey Moharan I, 49:7.

[13] Tikuney Zohar 18 (34a), 70 (132b); Etz Chaim, Shaar HaYere'ach 3; Likutey Moharan II, 79.

[14] Song of Songs 1:4 is interpreted to apply both to a happy marriage and to the 22 letters of the Torah in Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:31, 32. Cf. Eitz Chaim, loc. cit.; Likutey Moharan II, 89; Kesubos 10b.

[15] Likutey Moharan II, 5:10. Cf. Shemonah She’arim; Shaar Hamitzvos on Deut. 16:3; Shaar HaKavanos, Pesach 1.

[16] This refers to the atonement of sexual sins, for a bridegroom is forgiven all his sins. Yerushalmi, Bikurim 3:3 (11b); Rashi on Gen. 36:3; Magen Avraham 573; Bais Shmuel 61:6. The giving of the Torah, the wedding of G d and Israel, took place right after the Exodus.

[17] Tur Yoreh Deah 352. Cf. Shabbos 23:5 (151b).

[18] The best man makes the preparations for the groom, just as Joseph paved the way for Jacob, who symbolizes the transcendental groom, as mentioned earlier. Cf. Bava Basra 123a.

[19] Orach Chaim 610:4, in hagahah. The groom wears the kittel to remind him that he, too, is mortal, and therefore must repent.

[20] Cf. Sichos HaRan 40.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Women and Breslov Chasidus

(C) Dovid Sears

Women and Breslov Chasidus

By Dovid Sears

Once Rebbe Nachman asked his followers: “Why don't you make your wives chasidistehs?” (Siach Sarfei Kodesh 2, 1-14). (In Yiddish, “Chasidistehs” means “women Chasidim.”) Breslov tradition tells us that Rebbe Nachman affirmed the unique spiritual talents and sensitivities of women. He saw to it that his daughters were well educated in various areas of Torah, and he praised them highly for their spiritual qualities (his daughter Sarah in particular). Indeed, Rebbe Nachman once said of his daughters that he “took their souls from the World of Atzilus” (“Divine Emanation,” also called the “World of Oneness”) (Chayei Moharan 274).

Although it would be intellectually dishonest to depict Rebbe Nachman (who passed away more than 200 years ago) as a precursor of the modern feminist movement, it would be equally wrong to assume that the Rebbe viewed women as “second-class citizens,” whose religious pursuits were restricted to baking kugel and cleaning up the debris after Shabbos. Rebbe Nachman's express wish that his followers instruct their wives in the ways of Chasidus shows that it is entirely legitimate for women to follow his path of Divine service. This path may be described according to several basic points:


Rebbe Nachman declared: “Gohr mein zach iz tefillah... My main ‘thing’ is prayer” (Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh 1, 492; also cf. Likutey Moharan II, 93). This is a universal practice that women also can relate to—especially the practice of Hisbodedus (secluded meditation and prayer), which Rebbe Nachman extolled as “higher than everything” (Likutey Moharan II, 25). Ideally, Hisbodedus entails going out to the fields or forests at night, and speaking to G-d for an hour in one's own words. Women, however, should be careful to practice Hisbodedus in safer surroundings, such as at home or in the back yard, and not expose themselves to danger. If it is hard to find time (and energy) in the evening, one may practice Hisbodedus during the course of the day—even while performing household chores.

Rebbe Nachman praised women who go to shul and take part in the public prayers (Siach Sarfei Kodesh 2, 1-663). In addition to reading the prayers in the Siddur, many Breslover women recite Reb Noson's Likutey Tefilos, as well as other collections of prayers and techinos (supplications). The Breslov Research Institute (BRI) has begun to translate the complete text of Likutey Tefilos under the title, The Fiftieth Gate. So far, three volumes have been published. Shorter excerpts from Reb Noson's prayers have been translated as The Flame of the Heart and Entering the Light, also published by BRI.

It is a time-honored practice for married women to pray for their families and for the entire Jewish people especially while lighting the Shabbos or Yom Tov candles. Some Breslover “Chasidistehs” have the custom to add an additional prayer at that holy time that Rebbe Nachman's light fill the world.

Torah Study

Although halakhically women are exempt from the obligation of Torah study, in today's Orthodox Jewish world women are encouraged to study all parts of Torah relevant to their spiritual needs. This includes Tanach and its commentaries, Midrash, Halakhah, Mussar, and Chasidic works. Historically, Breslover women began to read the Sippurey Ma'asiyos, Rebbe Nachman's thirteen mystical stories, as soon as they were published in 1816. Indeed, during his last years the Rebbe had said that he wanted women to do so, also declaring his stories to be a segula (mystical remedy or charm) for those unable to conceive children (see Likutey Moharan I, 60).

Rebbe Nachman lived before there was a modern yeshivah system (which began with Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin in 1803, just seven years before Rebbe Nachman’s passing) or religious schools for girls and women (which began with Sarah Schenirer in 1915 and soon led to the modern Beis Yaakov movement). Moreover, with the exception of the first edition of Likutey Moharan, published in 1808, his printed works were not available until after his passing. (He didn't have a website, either.) Thus, we assume that his encouragement of his followers to teach their wives was not meant to restrict the study of his teachings to married women.

Aside from Rebbe Nachman's stories, a good place to begin studying his teachings would be the booklets “Outpouring of the Soul,” translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, and “Restore My Soul” and “Azamra,” translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum. More advanced are Likutey Eitzos, translate as “Rabbi Nachman's Advice,” and Sichos HaRan, translated as “Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom.” These works are available through the Breslov Research Institute’s website: Rabbi Greenbaum’s “The Essential Rabbi Nachman” is another useful collection, which is available as a free download via his website:

Family Life

Like Chava (Eve) in the Garden of Eden, a Jewish wife is called upon to be an eizer k'negdo (Genesis 2:18), a faithful partner to her husband, respecting and supporting his efforts in Avodas Hashem. This is an important part of her Divine service, for which she receives Heavenly reward (Kesubos 62b; Nedarim 50a; Berachos 17b). No less importantly, she should instill in her children emunah (faith) in Hashem and the tzaddikim, as well as good traits such as honesty, diligence, patience, derekh eretz, etc. More effective than a mother's words is her personal example. Thus, a woman should approach raising children as an important vehicle for her own spiritual development. Rebbe Nachman once remarked that hearing stories of tzaddikim at home as a child made an indelible impression upon him (Sichos HaRan 138). It is extremely beneficial for mothers to read such stories to their children. In addition to many popular collections of Torah tales, a number of colorfully illustrated Breslov storybooks are available.

Tzedakah and Chesed

Our sages declare the defining traits of the Jewish people to be “compassion, modesty, and kindness” (Yevamos 79a). Jewish women of all ages are renowned for their deeds of chesed (kindness), especially by visiting the sick and by showing hospitality to guests. The latter is considered to be an even higher level of charity than giving a poor person money, because it is a more immediate and direct way of benefiting the receiver (Ta’anis 21a). Once the Rebbe discussed the loftiness of the mitzvah of hospitality with his daughter, Sarah. A young married woman, she worried about her ability to fulfill this mitzvah properly. Observing her anxiety, her father added, “And what does it take to show hospitality? Another shtik'l kollitch—a slice of Challah—and a little more tablecloth!” (Avanehah Barzel, Sichos V'Sippurim miRabbenu zal, 2; Siach Sarfei Kodesh 2, 1-97).

Rosh Hashanah – Uman

Some newcomers to Breslov assume that the Rosh Hashanah gathering in the city of Uman, near Rebbe Nachman's gravesite, was always a “for men only” event. However, prior to the Stalinist purges, women also attended prayer services in the Breslover Kloyz on Rosh Hashana, as well as on Shabbos and the Yomim Tovim. In fact, it was the personal custom of Rav Avraham Sternhartz, the Baal Tokei'ah and Baal Musaf, upon leaving the synagogue to offer holiday greetings to the women waiting outside for their husbands, sons and brothers (who presumably took longer to exit the sanctuary downstairs). The main reason women today are discouraged from traveling to the Rosh Hashanah gathering in Uman is because under present circumstances, it would be impossible to accommodate large numbers of women without serious breaches of tzniyus (modesty). According to Breslov tradition, the participation of the men who join the Rosh Hashanah gathering in Uman brings blessings to their wives and families (as well as the entire Jewish people); there has never been the same imperative for women to leave their homes as for men. However, beginning with the independence of Ukraine during the early 1990s, groups of women began to travel to Uman frequently throughout the year, where they, too, recite the Tikkun HaKlalli, the ten psalms prescribed by Rebbe Nachman as a vehicle for teshuvah and to heal the soul. Although most women’s groups come from Eretz Yisrael, travel arrangements from America can be made through Nesia Travel, operated by Mrs. Miriam Fried (herself a Breslover who has traveled to Uman many times), 1661 43rd St, Brooklyn, N.Y. Tel. 718-633-3800.

Torah Classes for Women

Concerning Abraham and Sarah's mission to bring the entire world to serve the One G-d, our sages explain that Abraham taught the men, while his wife Sarah taught the women (Rashi on Genesis 12:5). Without a doubt, this arrangement is best. However, it is not always possible. Thus, in today's Orthodox communities, including the Breslov community, men often teach classes for women. For example, the late Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig of Jerusalem, leading disciple of Rav Avraham Sternhartz, taught groups of newly observant women at his home in Me'ah She'arim prior to his passing in 1980. His sons, Rabbi Elazar Mordechai Kenig and Rabbi Ephraim Kenig of the Tzefat Breslov community, continue to do so, as does Rabbi Noach Cheifetz of Yerushalayim. Also, the late Rabbi Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld, another student of Reb Avraham Sternhartz and pioneer of Breslov outreach in America, taught women. Rabbi Rosenfeld's example has been followed by his sons-in-law, Rabbi Chaim Kramer of the Breslov Research Institute, and Rabbi Noson Maimon of the Vaad Olami D'Chasidei Breslov, as well as his other students today.

A few prominent women teachers of Breslov Chasidus include Mrs. Rena Rochel Silber, formerly of Far Rockaway and now of Eretz Yisrael; Mrs. Esther Leah Marschette of Boston; Mrs. Talya Lipshutz of Tzefat; Mrs. Debbie Shapiro of Yerushalayim; Mrs. Chani Kass of Yerushalayim; and Mrs. Yehudis Golshevsky of Yerushalayim, among others.

In the merit of studying and following the teachings of the tzaddikim, may Hashem's promise speedily be fulfilled in us, “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophecy” (Joel 3:1), amen.


Rebbe Nachman's mother, Rebbetzin Feige (d. 19 Adar 5561/1801) was a grand-daughter of the holy Baal Shem Tov, and the sister of Chasidic masters Rabbi Baruch of Medzibuzh (author of Butzina D'Nehora) and Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudilkov (author of Degel Machaneh Ephraim). Her brothers held her in such high regard that they called her “Feige the Prophetess.” It is said that the Baal Shem Tov taught his daughter, Rebbetzin Udel, certain combinations of Divine Names (yichudim) by which she could commune with his soul after his passing. She, in turn, passed down these yichudim to her daughter, Rebbetzin Feige.

After marrying Rabbi Simcha, a son of Rabbi Nachman Horodenker who had been raised by the Baal Shem Tov, Rebbetzin Feige inherited the Baal Shem Tov's house in Medzhibuzh. There, Rebbe Nachman, as well as his brothers Yisrael and Yechiel Zvi and his sister Perel, were born and raised (Nevei Tzaddikim, p. 10).


According to tradition, it once happened that Rabbi Simcha, an ascetic who spent much time practicing hisbodedus in the forests and fields, did not return home for several weeks. As Shabbos drew near, Rebbetzin Feige attempted to use her knowledge of Divine names to find her missing husband— but to no avail. At last, she fell asleep. In a dream, her mother, Rebbetzin Udel, appeared to her, accompanied by the Matriarchs Sarah, Rivkah, Rochel, and Leah. “Don't worry,” they told her. “Your husband will be home for Shabbos.”

Then they guided her to the heavenly “Chamber of Souls,” where she beheld the resplendent soul of the Baal Shem Tov. Walking on, she was shown an even more luminous soul.

“Who is that?” she asked.

“This soul will be given to you,” they replied.

Returning home, she found that her husband had already arrived, safe and sound.

“What happened?” she asked.

“It was getting close to Shabbos, and I was lost in the woods, far from home,” he explained. “Then, suddenly I found myself here in Medzhibuzh!” Rebbetzin Feige went to the mikveh that night, and conceived the child whose soul she had already seen: Rebbe Nachman (Until the Moshiach, pp. 324-325).


Rabbi Simcha and Rebbetzin Feige were renowned for their hospitality. Disciples of the Maggid of Mezeritch and the Toldos Yaakov Yosef, as well as many simple good Jews, often traveled to Medzhibuzh to pray near the Baal Shem Tov's grave. They knew that they could always refresh themselves from their journey at the home of Rabbi Simcha and Rebbetzin Feige. Rebbe Nachman later remarked that the company of these worthy guests made a profound impression upon him as a child. The stories of tzaddikim they told entered his heart, and inspired him to strive for the spiritual heights (Nevey Tzaddikim, p. 12; Sichos HaRan 138)


During the last year of her life, on Rosh Chodesh Elul 5560/1800, Rebbetzin Feige attended the wedding of Rebbe Nachman's daughter Udel to Rabbi Yoska, son of Rabbi Avraham Dov of Chmelnick. (The latter was a prominent disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch and Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye.) She mentioned that she saw the soul of the Baal Shem Tov at the chupah (wedding canopy) (Chayei Moharan 114). Some say that due to his mother's great spiritual merits, the Rebbe asked that his followers refer to him as “Nachman Ben Feige” in their prayers or when submitting pidyonos (requests for Heavenly intercession).


Someone once asked Rebbe Nachman why the Baal Shem Tov held his daughter, Rebbetzin Udel, in such high esteem. The Rebbe explained, “My great-grandfather greatly admired his daughter because all day long she went about with a heart full of yearning for G-d, and constantly asked herself, 'What can I do to please the One Above?'“ (Siach Sarfei Kodesh 11, 1-72).


Rebbe Nachman once said: “My daughters have ru'ach hakodesh, which is close to prophesy. And I'm not talking about Sarah at all!” (Chayei Moharan 583).


In the winter of 5565 (1805), the Rebbe traveled to Medvedevka for “Shabbos Shirah (Beshalach),” as was his custom, in order to visit his Chasidim and to give a Torah lesson. At that time, his four-year-old daughter Chaya, who was then in Medvedevka, developed sties on both eyes and could barely see. Upon his arrival, the Rebbe was informed of her condition. He then gave the discourse, “And G-d led the people circuitously...” (Exodus 13:19), later published as Likutey Moharan 1I, 62. This lesson cites a teaching of the Zohar (Mishpatim, 95a) about a “beautiful maiden who has no eyes.” Through this, his daughter was healed (Chayei Moharan 26).


In the year 5565/1804, the Rebbe’s daughter Miriam married Rabbi Pinchas Segal of Volochisk. The Chasan (bridegroom) was a son of Rabbi Leibush Segal, the Rav of Volochisk and a disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch. On the Shabbos before the wedding (Parshas Noach, Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan), the Rebbe danced all day long. In Chayei Moharan, Rabbi Noson remarks that never did he see the Rebbe dance the way he danced that Shabbos.

The Rebbe drank a little wine, as is customary in celebrating a coming wedding. At one point, he supported himself on his disciple, Rabbi Yudel, and continued to dance. They were singing a very beautiful and inspiring melody, which was one of awe. The Rebbe danced to this niggun. (Usually when he danced, it was to a niggun of inspiration and awe. According to tradition, this was the melody that Breslover Chasidim still sing for “Rosh Chodesh bentchen” / the blessing of the New Month.) The Rebbe also said that this melody is one of “calling and summoning”; it is used to call everyone to gather for the wedding ceremony. They were calling the souls of all the family's holy ancestors: the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Nachman Horodenker, and the Rebbe's mother, Rebbetzin Feige. As the Zohar states, the souls of departed relatives all gather together at a wedding (Pinchas, 219b, 220a).

During the Third Meal, the Rebbe sat with the entire company, and led the singing of “Bnei Heichalah.” He remarked, “One who knows how to drink can atone for sins.” Then he delivered a profound discourse on this subject, later published as Likutey Moharan I, 177 (Chayei Moharan 117).


Rebbe Nachman's daughter Sarah married Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac, son of Rabbi Leib Dubrovner of Kremenchug. Although the Rebbe was already living in Breslov, the wedding took place in Medvedevka on Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5563/1803 (which was Rebbe Nachman's birthday). After ceremony they spoke about the Moshiach, and the Rebbe hinted that he would be one of the newly married couple's offspring.

On Shabbos Sheva Berachos, during the Third Meal, the Rebbe delivered the lofty discourse, “He set a tent for the sun in their midst” (Psalms 19:5), later published as Likutey Moharan 1, 49. (When the Rebbe first gave over this discourse in the presence of the bride and groom, he began with the last half of the verse: “And he will come forth like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy.”) This lesson weaves together the concepts of Nissan, Sarah, Yitzchak, a bride, a wedding, Shabbos, and the Moshiach.

Rebbe Nachman danced at great length before his daughter Sarah. In praise of the Rebbe's dancing, Reb Noson states: “Whoever did not witness his dancing never beheld goodness in his life. Although many tzaddikim have fulfilled the mitzvah of 'dancing before the bride,' the Rebbe's dancing was beyond compare. Everyone present surely was moved to genuine repentance for all his sins” (Yemei Moharnat 3; Chayei Moharan 116).


Once the Rebbe wrote a letter to his daughter Sarah expressing his great love and affection, and saying how he longed to have her at his table, so that he could gladden himself with her company each day, and receive wisdom and fear of Heaven from her words. He concluded, “You are like a myrtle in the wilderness that has no one to appreciate its pleasant fragrance”

A number of the Rebbe's followers were present when Sarah received this letter. One of than told Rabbi Noson that after she read it, she broke down and began to cry in front of them, saying, “I must have fallen to a very low level for my father to praise me so much to my face.” For the Rebbe would praise a person to his face if he felt that the person had fallen from his previous level and needed encouragement (Chayei Moharan 581, 582).


Sarah was often ill. Her suffering deeply pained the Rebbe, who often spoke of it. Once the Rebbe came to visit, and found her greatly distressed by a toothache. “Even if it is difficult, you must force yourself to be happy,” the Rebbe told her. Then he explained that by vividly imagining being joyous, she could come to experience true joy—so much so that she would want to dance. Through this, she would be cured. Sarah took her father's advice to heart. Closing the shutters of her house, she began to dance. Before long, the pain had disappeared (Until the Moshiach, p. 334).


Another time when Sarah was ill, Rebbe Nachman suggested that she picture herself as better off now than before she fell sick. This, too, seemed impossible to Sarah, whose anguish gave her no peace. Still, the Rebbe asked her to follow his instructions. “The power of thought is very great,” he explained. “By thinking positively, you can actually turn your situation to the good” (also see Sichos HaRan 62, 74) (Until the Moshiach, p. 334).


On yet another occasion, the Rebbe came to visit Sarah, only to find her bedridden and in agony. Rebbe Nachman listened intently to the details of her sickness, sharing her grief. Then he fell asleep. His great-grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, appeared to him in a dream and told him not to worry. He quoted the verse, “Great deliverance He gives to His king, and shows steadfast love to His anointed one— to David and his seed forever” (Psalms 18:51). The Rebbe understood this to mean that Sarah's illness could be cured by telling her a story about an act of deliverance that G-d had performed for a tzaddik. Upon awakening, the Rebbe sat beside his daughter, and told an awesome story about the Maharsha (Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Eidels, 1555-1622, author of a famous commentary on the narrative portions of the Talmud). As soon as he finished the story, Sarah arose from her bed, having recovered completely. Subsequently, she told the same story to other sick people, and they, too, returned to health (also cf. Likutey Moharan I, 234; Sichos HaRan 138) (Until the Moshiach, p. 334).


Sarah's son Yisrael was born while Rebbe Nachman was visiting Kremenchug. The Rebbe waited for several weeks until his daughter gave birth. His solemn demeanor throughout this time betrayed his constant anxiety for the well-being of his daughter and the unborn child. However, after the birth he became extremely happy, asking that all the lights be lit and a punch of wine and honey be served. On the eighth day, the child was circumcised, and the Rebbe remained elated all day long. It pleased him that several people mentioned to him that the child had the same name as the Baal Shem Tov: Yisrael ben Sarah (Yemei Moharnat 17; Chayei Moharan 151).


When the Rebbe was severely ill, he asked Sarah's three or four year old son, Yisrael, to pray for him. The little boy replied, “Give me your watch, and I will pray for you!” At this, the Rebbe said, “You see, he's already a Rebbe, because he tells me to give him something in order for him to pray!” The Rebbe then gave him his watch. The little boy took it, went aside, and began to cry, “G-d! G-d! Let my Zeideh (grandfather) be well!” The people standing nearby found this humorous. However, the Rebbe said, “This is how we must entreat G-d. What other way is there to pray?” That is, we must pray to G-d with the greatest simplicity, like a child before his father, or a person speaking to his best friend (Chayei Moharan 439).

Rebbe Nachman said: “As to what will become of me, I have no idea. But this much I have achieved with the Almighty: our righteous Moshiach will be one of my descendants.” The Rebbe said this publicly. He asked that we honor and respect his daughters, because they were “precious trees that would give forth rare and goodly fruits.” He also said that he had taken his children from the World of Atzilus (Divine Emanation)—the highest spiritual level (Chayei Moharan 279; Yemei Moharnat 17).


The Rebbe's attendant, Reb Shimon, came to ask his master to intercede in Heaven for his infant son, who was deathly ill. Rebbe Nachman, however, did not respond. Forlorn and without hope, Reb Shimon returned hone. His wife understood the implications of the Rebbe's silence. Yet instead of yielding to despair, she sat at the infant's crib throughout the night, praying tearfully for the life of her child.

The next morning, when the Rebbe saw Reb Shimon, he exclaimed: “Look at the great power of prayer: Last night the decree had been sealed. But because of your wife's prayers, not only will your son recover, but he has been granted long life.” And, indeed, Reb Shimon's son lived to be nearly one hundred years old (Avanehah Barzel 60, p. 39; also cf. Siach Sarfei Kodesh 2, 1-100).


A follower of Rebbe Nachman once asked how he might strengthen his emunah. The Rebbe replied, “We can learn to have emunah from the women” (oral tradition heard from Rabbi Nasan Maimon).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sha'arei Tziyon

Rebbe Nachman had a special liking for the kabbalistic prayers written by seventeenth century rabbi and mystic Rabbi Noson Nata Hanover (Ashkenazi), published as "Sha'arei Tziyon." Therefore, many Breslover Chassidim recite them.

(Shivchei ha-Ran 10, 13; Sichos ha-Ran 163; Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh III, 382.)

Sha’arei Tziyon also was popular among the followers of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezerich.

(See Toras ha-Maggid mi-Zlotchov, Hanhagos me-ha-Maggid mi-Zlotchov, vol. I, p. 343, citing Sefer Rishpey Aish, that Reb Michel of Zlotchov said Tikkun Chatzos and Kriyas Shema al ha-Mittah from Sha’arei Tziyon.)

Reb Gedaliah Kenig's students observed that he kept a copy of Sha'arei Tziyon with him constantly, and recited its prayers every day.

In recent years it has been reprinted both in its traditional format and in a newly-typeset edition.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Likutey Moharan Class & Jazz Concert - Thursday, January 8

Likutey Moharan Class
led by Elie Massias at 8pm
Followed by a Jazz Concert at 9pm
Class is free / Concert $6

More info at

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tzuras Yisrael / Appearance of a Jew

By Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears


There is no Breslover "dress code." In Uman on Rosh Hashanah, one finds Jews of every appearance and background, and this is true at many other Breslover gatherings. In part, this is because we live in an extremely diverse Jewish society today, and the Rebbe speaks to Jews from all walks of life and religious ideologies. Another reason is because Breslover Chassidus tends to focus on the inner life of the spirit, not on externals. It is also a very individualistic path.

However, it is must be acknowledged that members of traditional Breslov communities have always maintained a "Chassidisheh tzurah"—they dressed like other Chassidim in the places where they lived. The Rebbe was emphatic about not removing the beard and peyos, things that were unheard of among Breslover Chassidim until recent times. Thus, in contemporary Breslov communities in Eretz Yisrael (such as those in Yerushalayim, Bet Shemesh, Beitar, Brachfeld, Yavneel, Immanuel, Bnei Brak, and Tzefas) and in America (such as those in Borough Park, Williamsburg, Lakewood, Monsey, and Monroe), most Breslovers dress in a traditional Chassidic manner. Ideally, this goes hand in hand with fidelity to Chassidic spiritual values and ideals, based on the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the great tzaddikim of the past.

When questioned on this subject, Reb Elazar Kenig answered that dressing in a Chassidic manner is a holy and meaningful component of the Rebbe's derekh. However, he added that some people from a more modern background who are attracted to Breslov may hesitate to change their style of dress. This should not be an obstacle. One need not wear a long black jacket to study the Rebbe’s teachings and follow his guidance in avodas HaShem. But even if one is not ready to make such external changes at present, one may aspire to wear a Chassidisheh levush in the future. In any case, one should respect the traditional Jewish manner of dress.


The Rebbe praised the Chassidim in general for preserving the traditional Jewish style of dress and appearance, and for keeping distant from chokhmos chitzoniyos (philosophies contrary to the Torah).
(Chayei Moharan 421)


Rabbi Nachman wore a beard and long peyos, and dressed in the manner of a Chassidic rebbe of his day.
(E.g., Shivchey ha-Ran, Nesia le-Eretz Yisrael, 15)


Reb Noson likewise wore a beard and peyos, but dressed like an ordinary Chassid, not like a rebbe. He preferred to wear a kashketel (a type of cloth cap with a visor) like a simple man, rather than the more formal wide-brimmed hat.
(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh II, 633)


The Rebbe cautioned his followers not to wear unclean, torn, or shabby clothes. Rather, a God-fearing person should wear clean and respectable clothing, according to his ability.
(Chayei Moharan 201)


The Rebbe also mentioned that there is a yetzer hara which latches onto people through clothing. This problem is hinted to by the verse which states of Potifar's wife and Yosef Hatzaddik "And she grasped him by his garment" (Bereishis 39:12)—one of the ways the yetzer hara latches onto us is through excessive concern with clothing. Therefore, if one cannot afford all of the clothes one needs, G-d forbid, one should not worry about this, but simply make the best of things.
(Sichos ha-Ran 100)


Reb Noson discusses the mystical meaning of the centuries-old Jewish custom to fasten one’s shirts and jackets so that the right side is on top of the left side. This indicates the dominance of midas ha-chesed (kindness) over midas ha-din (harshness). Chassidim are particular to use such garments, as opposed to those worn in the secular world, which fasten left over right.
(See Likutey Halakhos, Hilchos Hashkomas ha-Boker 1:10)


The Rebbe once remarked that there is a connection between the fact that Jews in Germany in his day already wore short jackets in the modern, western European manner, and that the Zohar was not commonly available there.
(Chayei Moharan 422)


In the same teaching, the Rebbe states that clothes are in the category of the Ohr Makkif / Encompassing Light. Therefore, he reiterates, one must take care of his clothes and make sure that they are clean and neat.


The Rebbe delivered awesome mystical teachings about the beard and peyos. He also related the removal of the beard to assimilation and religious decline.
(See Likutey Moharan I, 20; Chayei Moharan 51, 86; et al.)


Reb Noson expounds at length upon the mystical meaning of the beard and peyos, which he relates to the Patriarchs Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and the right, left, and middle columns in the array of the sefiros. He points out that these are not only symbols, but also channels for spiritual illumination.
(Likutey Halakhos, Gilu’ach 1, 3, et passim)


Reb Gedaliah said that it is proper to keep the peyos distinct from the beard, unlike those who brush the peyos into the beard. He said the peyos represent din, and the beard represents chesed. Therefore, they should not be mixed.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)


The Arizal was strict about not cutting or removing the beard in any manner, even in ways that are permitted according to halakhah.
(Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha’ar ha-Mitzvos, Kedoshim, 24a)


The vast majority of Breslover Chassidim of past generations did not trim their mustaches, even though it is halakhically permissible to do so.
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)


The Rebbe remarked that HaShem derives great pleasure from "even the way the most ordinary Jew gives his peyos a shake."
(Likutey Moharan I, 17:1)


Shortly before his death, Rabbi Yisrael Karduner (Halpern) of Tiveria consoled himself, saying “Barukh Hashem, that I am leaving this world behind while ‘adorned’ with a beard and peyos.”
(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh VI, 118)