Friday, February 24, 2012

Healing the Soul

Kever of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk

Healing the Soul
A four-part teaching translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
From Tzaddik: A Portrait of Rabbi Nachman (Breslov Research Institute), sections 227, 228
Corresponding to Chayei Moharan 101, 102

The week of Torah reading Vayelekh.[1] Thursday, during the Ten Days of Penitence, 5670 (1809), Breslov. The Rebbe told us he had had a dream, but he did not know what it meant. A man who was one of his followers had passed away. The man was really dead, but the Rebbe did not know until today. In the dream everybody was standing around in front of the Rebbe, taking leave of him before they set off on their homeward journeys after the Rosh HaShanah gathering. This man who had passed away was also standing there.

The Rebbe asked him, “Why were you not with us for Rosh HaShanah?”

“But I have already gone to the next world,” he replied.

[Rabbi Nachman went on:] “I said to him, ‘Is that a reason? If a person has died, is he not permitted to come for Rosh HaShanah?’ The man remained silent. Seeing as several people had spoken with me about the question of faith, I also spoke to him about this.” [Rabbi Noson writes: It would appear that the Rebbe understood that the man had lost his faith.]

“I said to him, ‘Is there no one else besides me to go to? If you don’t have faith in me, go and follow one of the other Tzaddikim. Since you still have faith in the others, go and be their follower.’

“He said, ‘Whom should I go to?’

I seem to recall that I indicated to him that he should become the follower of a particular well-known Tzaddik. He replied, ‘I am far from him.’ I told him, ‘Become the follower of someone else.’ I went through the list of all the well-known Tzaddikim, but he said the same about all of them: he was far from them. I said to him, ‘If you are far from all of them and you have no one to follow, you might as well stay here as before and become my follower again.’

“‘From you,’ he exclaimed, ‘I am very far!’

“It was the middle of the day. The sun was directly overhead. The man raised himself up into the air until he rose up to the sun, and he traveled with the sun, descending gradually towards the horizon, just like the afternoon sun. He literally came down to the ground just as the sun set, and he carried on traveling with the sun until at midnight he reached the point directly underneath me together with the sun—because at midnight the sun is literally opposite a person’s feet. At that moment, when he had descended so far that he was directly opposite me, I heard him crying in a loud voice, ‘Have you heard how far I am from you!’ I do not know what this means.”

[Rabbi Nachman continued:] “I had great pity on him. Surely the main struggle a person has is to reach the ultimate goal. This is the main task in life. In this life, one cannot really savor the true meaning or feeling of being close to the Tzaddik, owing to the gross physicality of the body and all the other obstacles. Therefore, the main thing is to strive for the ultimate goal. Then, when you leave this world after a long and full life, you will understand what you heard long before and what you will hear then. More than this, there will be the spiritual joys each one will attain. And if after all this you still do not succeed in drawing close... Happy is the one who remains strong in his faith in God and the true Tzaddik, and who fulfills what the Tzaddik says. He will never be disgraced or put to shame, either in this world or the World to Come.”

On another occasion the Rebbe said that a person must put great efforts into strengthening his faith in the Tzaddik. His faith should be so strong that even after his death he will remain firm. Then they will be powerless to deceive him in the other world in any way. There too, great determination is needed to believe in the Tzaddik. The Rebbe said there are souls of the wicked who oppose the Tzaddik and their aim is to deceive a person and keep him from making the effort to come to the Tzaddik for his tikkun. But for one who remains strong in his faith, these opposing forces will be powerless to prevent him from going to the Tzaddik to receive a tikkun for his soul. Even in the other world, the main obstacles are nothing but the distractions created by the accusers and destroyers found there.

They confuse a person and weaken his resolve, deceiving him with various rumors about the Tzaddik so as to prevent him from making the effort to reach him. Even after a person leaves this world, as long as he is unworthy of reaching his final resting place, he is still not in the World of Truth. On the contrary, his main punishment and pain come at the hands of the destroying forces that lead him to the World of Desolation.[2] There it appears to him as if he is still in this world. They deceive him in all kinds of ways, as is known from the literature discussing these subjects. However, when a person is determined and stubbornly refuses to listen to what they are saying, telling them, “I will not listen! All I want is to travel to the Tzaddik!” they have no option but to leave him alone. There is no way they can prevent him, because their only power lies in deceiving him, and he refuses to listen to them.

The Journey to Leipzig

The Rebbe told a story about a Jew from White Russia who had come to live in Eretz Yisrael. He had traveled there with the well-known Tzaddik, the saintly Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, of blessed memory. (It is well known how fierce the opposition to the Tzaddikim and the Chassidim was in the early days. This was especially true in Lithuania and White Russia. Anyone who wanted to become one of their followers had to face formidable obstacles.) There in Israel it was agreed that this man should be sent abroad to raise money for the settlers, as was customary in those days. The man in question—the follower of R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk—was traveling at sea in the course of his mission when he died. However, in Israel they knew nothing of this yet.

After his death, it appeared to him as if he was on a journey to Leipzig together with some members of his staff, just as he used to travel during his lifetime. For he had been a merchant with considerable interests, and he traveled to Leipzig regularly during his lifetime. Now, too, it seemed to him as if he was traveling there together with his assistant and his carriage-driver, as usual.

In the middle of the journey he suddenly felt a tremendous longing to go to his Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, in order to speak with him and experience his holiness. So great was his desire that he was willing to leave everything and break his journey in the middle in order to go directly to his Rebbe. He started telling his employees that this was what he wanted, but they laughed and put him off. How could he think of losing such an excellent business opportunity? Thus they prevented him from going. Then after a while he again felt another surge of desire and longing. Again he told his employees he wanted to travel to his Rebbe, and again they put him off, telling him it was impossible to lose such a wonderful business opportunity and just leave. They must go on to Leipzig. This time he also listened to them and again was prevented from going.

Later on he felt a tremendous sense of arousal and enthusiasm. This time he told them he would not listen to a word they said to the contrary. All he wanted was to go to his Rebbe, and he would throw everything aside to do so. No matter how much they tried to persuade him, using every kind of argument and excuse—how was it possible to do such a thing in the middle of an enterprise of this nature?—he refused to listen to a word they said. He remained totally firm in his intention to go off immediately to his Rebbe. He ordered them to turn back and come with him to where his Rebbe was to be found. Seeing they were powerless to stop him with arguments and excuses, they got up and staged a rebellion, saying they refused to follow his instructions in something as unheard of as this. He retorted that they must do exactly as he wanted, but they refused to listen. He became extremely angry with them for ignoring his command, for he was their employer, and they were obliged to obey him in everything.

In the course of this argument he was informed of the truth: he was already dead, and his fellow travelers were destroying angels that were leading him on and deceiving him. “In that case,” he said, “I am certainly determined that you should bring me at once to my Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel.”

“And for our part,” they replied, “we are certainly not prepared to take you to him!”

The argument became very fierce, with the Chassid insisting they take him to his Rebbe while the destroying angels refused to yield. Eventually the case was brought before the Heavenly Court, which decided in his favor and his desire to be taken to his Rebbe at once must be honored.

And that is exactly what happened. Without delay, he was taken to the sainted Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, who was still living in Eretz Yisrael. He was brought to the Tzaddik’s house, and when he entered, one of the destroying angels went in with him. The Tzaddik was so frightened that he fainted. They brought him round, and afterwards he worked for about eight days to bring about a tikkun until in the end he succeeded. Only then did the Tzaddik announce to the other settlers that the man they had sent abroad had died—for as yet they knew nothing about this whatsoever. The Tzaddik told them the whole story. (It was essential for them to be informed about his death in order to know how to proceed with their arrangements for raising money abroad for Eretz Yisrael.)

The Rebbe’s purpose in telling the story was to emphasize the determination needed to draw close to the Tzaddik even in the other world after one’s death. However, the main thing is what happens in this world: a person who is strong and determined in his faith in this world will also be able to surmount the obstacles in the other world. Because “according to the devotion shown by mortals in this world, so it is in the World to Come.”[3]

I also heard it said in the Rebbe’s name that he had offered advice as to how to make sure of coming to the Tzaddik after death.[4] The advice was to take an oath to this effect while holding a holy object [such as a Torah scroll or Tefillin]. [Rabbi Noson adds:] I myself did not hear this directly from the Rebbe, only from the lips of others who had heard it directly from him.

Reb Hirsh’s Kaddish

Rabbi Alter Tepliker[5] heard this story about coming straight to the Tzaddik after death from R. David Hirsh of Damitreivka. The latter had it told to him by R. Shlomo Magarinitzer, the grandson of the Tzaddik, Rabbi Shlomo Lutzker, a disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch. R. Shlomo Magarinitzer’s mother had brought him to Rabbi Nachman to be his attendant, in the hope that the Rebbe would find a suitable marriage partner for her son. It was while R. Shlomo was in the Rebbe’s service, that the following story took place:

In Medvedevka there lived a man by the name of R. Hirsh who was one of the Rebbe’s close followers. He had a son and a daughter. This only son contracted tuberculosis, but because R. Hirsh did not understand the seriousness of the disease, he took the matter lightly. He did not think to even mention it to Rabbi Nachman, who was then visiting in Medvedevka. R. Hirsh’s son-in-law did appreciate the gravity of the situation and went to the Rebbe to ask that he pray for his brother-in-law’s recovery. Rabbi Nachman’s answer was, “I can do nothing for him in this world, but in the Upper World I will be able to benefit him once he passes away.” The Rebbe then asked that R. Hirsh’s son be told to come to speak with him and he would tell him what he needed to know.

Shocked by this disclosure, R. Hirsh’s son-in-law sought to stir the Rebbe’s compassion so that Rabbi Nachman would work to nullify the decree and his brother-in-law would live on. “How tragic it will be for R. Hirsh, already an old man, to lose his only son.” However, the Rebbe remained silent. Again the son-in-law tried to sway the Rebbe, and only when he finished did Rabbi Nachman respond. “Why are you pressuring me? Don’t you know that if I work to help him so that he recovers, God will be obliged to take thirteen other people from the world?[6] And to our Father in Heaven, all his children are equal; as the saying goes, ‘When a man bruises his finger, the pain is felt by all.’ Besides,” added Rabbi Nachman, “perhaps you are one of the thirteen.” Hearing this, R. Hirsh’s son-in-law retreated and went off to advise his brother-in-law to visit the Rebbe.

When the sick man came, Rabbi Nachman spoke with him, after which the Rebbe returned home. R. Hirsh’s son passed away two months later and his father mourned him greatly. During the mourning period, the son-in-law told R. Hirsh of everything he had heard from Rabbi Nachman when the latter had visited in Medvedevka. R. Hirsh’s grief was very great and he cried endlessly. Immediately after the seven day mourning period, R. Hirsh traveled to Breslov to see the Rebbe.

Arriving at night, he quickly made his way over to Rabbi Nachman who was already preparing for bed. Knocking on the door, he spoke with the Rebbe’s attendant, R. Shlomo Magarinitzer mentioned above, who informed Rabbi Nachman that R. Hirsh of Medvedevka had come to see him. When R. Hirsh entered the Rebbe’s room, he began crying uncontrollably and could not compose himself enough to speak. Rabbi Nachman consoled him: “After all, the main offspring of the righteous are their good deeds” (Rashi, Genesis 6:9). But R. Hirsh would not be consoled by this or any of the other things the Rebbe said to him. “What will be with my Kaddish after I die?” asked R. Hirsh.[7] ”He was the only one who would have said Kaddish for me.” “In that case, I will be your Kaddish,” exclaimed the Rebbe, “and I will teach you how to die.”

At this point, Rabbi Nachman motioned for his attendant to leave the room. R. Shlomo, who very much wanted to hear what the Rebbe was about to say, closed the door behind him, but not all the way. Still, the only thing R. Shlomo managed to hear was how Rabbi Nachman advised R. Hirsh to take an oath over some holy object that after he dies, immediately after they seal his coffin, he wishes to be brought to the Rebbe.

R. Hirsh returned home. All this took place in the wintertime and a while later, R. Shlomo, the attendant, also had reason to travel to Medevedevka. When he arrived, he found that a plague had taken the lives of a number of children there. The people of the town wanted to send someone to bring a redemption to Rabbi Nachman but were not able to raise both the pidyon money as well as the expenditures required to cover such a long journey. In the meantime, R. Hirsh passed away. Before he was buried, the attendant, who was still in Medvedevka, related to Rabbi Nachman’s followers what he had heard from behind the door when R. Hirsh had come to the Rebbe in Breslov. He spoke of the oath, but noone knew whether R. Hirsh had actually taken it before he passed away. The Rebbe’s followers, including Rabbi Yudel, agreed upon a plan. As they were carrying R. Hirsh’s body to be buried a Torah scroll was brought out, and the deceased was told to take an oath that he would immediately go to Rabbi Nachman to inform him of the plague that was attacking the children of Medvedevka.[8] Because of this oath, R. Hirsh would have to go to the Rebbe even if he himself had not previously followed the Rebbe’s advice.

Three months later, R. Shlomo the attendant returned to Breslov. When he came to Rabbi Nachman, the Rebbe asked him if he could remember when it was that R. Hirsh had died. R. Shlomo responded by recalling which month it had been, but he could not call to mind the exact day. “Was it not on such and such a day of the month?” said Rabbi Nachman. “Yes, yes!” R. Shlomo suddenly remembered that R. Hirsh had indeed passed away on that date. “You see,” said the Rebbe, “right after they closed his coffin, R. Hirsh came to me”—as if to say, “I thought it would take some time, but he came instantly.” R. David Hirsh of Damitreivka was personally told this story by R. Shlomo the attendant.

The Synagogue of the Dead

[Rabbi Noson writes:] I heard from others that the Rebbe once said: In Jerusalem there is a synagogue to which all the dead people on earth are brought.[9] As soon as someone in this world dies, he is brought there at once to be judged as to where his place should be. There are people who die in Eretz Yisrael who are taken outside the Land. Others who die outside may be brought to Eretz Yisrael.[10] It is in this synagogue that the court which hands down these judgments sits and allocates each person the place he deserves. There are even cases where the verdict is that there is no place at all for the person concerned and he is to be destroyed and cast into the “hollow sling.”[11]

When the dead are brought there, they are brought in clothing. Sometimes a dead person’s clothes are missing something. One person might be missing a sleeve, another a piece from the edge of his garment, and so on. Everything depends upon a person’s actions in his life-time (because his clothing after death corresponds to his deeds).[12] The verdict depends on the clothes he has when he is brought there, and his place is allocated accordingly.

Once a dead person was brought there completely naked. He had no clothes whatsoever. The verdict was that he should be cast into the hollow sling and destroyed, G-d forbid, because he was completely naked. However, a certain Tzaddik came and took one of his own garments and cast it over this person.

The court asked him, “Why are you giving him one of your own garments?”

The court took exception to this, because why should the dead man be given a garment and be saved with clothing that was not his? The Tzaddik answered: “I have to send this man on a mission for my own purposes, and for this reason I am entitled to dress him in my own garment. Surely you are aware that on occasion a nobleman may send his servant to another nobleman and the servant delays carrying out his bidding. His master asks him, ‘Why have you not left yet as I ordered?’ The servant replies, ‘Because I don’t have the right clothes for going to the nobleman in question. He is very great and it is impossible to go there in clothes which are not respectable.’ The master answers, ‘Quickly, take one of my garments and put it on and run quickly to the nobleman to do my bidding.’ Similarly, I need to send this dead person on a mission of my own. For that reason I am giving him one of my garments.” This is how the Tzaddik saved the dead man from the bitter penalty of the hollow sling.

The Rebbe told this story to show the tremendous power of the true Tzaddik to save his followers in the World of Truth.[13]

© 1987 The Breslov Research Institute


[1] Parpara’ot LeChokhmah 11, 5 (end).
[2] This punishment can last for hundreds of years until one merits being judged, and then either rewarded or penalized for his acts. See Kokhavey Or, Sichot V’Sipurim, pp. 168 -170.
[3] Zohar I, 100a, 129b; also see Kokhavey Or, Sichot V’Sippurim, p. 168.
[4] See Kokhavey Or, Sichot V’Sippurim, p. 168.
[5] Though he was affectionately known as R. Alter Tepliker, his real name was R. Moshe Yehoshua Bezhilianski. A leading Breslover in Uman at the turn of the century, he was the brother-in-law of Rabbi Avraham B’Reb Nachman Chazan of Tulchin. Among his works are: Hishtaphkhut HaNefesh / Outpouring of the Soul (Breslov Research Institute 1981), Meshivat Nefesh / Restore My Soul (Breslov Research Institute 1980), Mai HaNachal, Milei d’Avot, Haggadah Or Zoreach and other books. In 1898, he collated the previously unpublished sections of the Chayei Moharan. His manuscript was used in the preparation of this text. In 1919, during the Cossack revolution in the Ukraine, R. Alter was killed in a synagogue while holding a Torah scroll.
[6] Zohar III, 205a.
[7] The Kaddish is a prayer recited to elevate the soul after it passes away.
[8] It is customary for the burial society to inform the person at the time of his interment that he is deceased. This is done so that he can demand to be taken to his final judgment rather than be tricked into entering the World of Desolation.
[9] Cf. Emunat Uman, 31.
[10] Zohar II, 141a.
[11] A punishment whereby a soul is cast about from place to place and can never rest. Also, a soul may be cast constantly from the Gehennom of Fire to the Gehinnom of lce. See Zohar I, 238b.
[12] Zohar II, 229b; ibid. II, 210b; ibid. III, 101a; cf. Ketubot 103a, Gilyon HaShas, s.v. kol bei shimshi.
[13] Cf. Eruvin 19a, that Abraham removes from Gehinnom those who are circumcised; also note Tikuney Zohar, Tikkun 32.

No comments:

Post a Comment