Monday, October 29, 2012

The Baal Shem Tov’s Nickname

New Musings on an Old Question
by Dovid Sears

The classic collection of early Chassidic stories, Shivchey HaBaal Shem Tov, preserves several oral traditions about the Baal Shem Tov’s origins. Among them is the tale of how a great kabbalist known as “Rabbi Adam” (this name itself being the subject of much speculation) left deathbed instructions to his son to go to the village of Okup, the home of “Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer.” Upon finding the rabbi, the lad should give him a certain profound kabbalistic manuscript, which the dying sage entrusted to him, and then ascend to the “Yeshivah shel Ma’alah,” the Heavenly Academy.

Faithful to his mission, Rabbi Adam’s son (who had evidently inherited some money as well as kabbalistic manuscripts) made his way to Okup, where he was soon recognized as an esteemed talmid chokhom and honored guest. However, when he inquires about “Rabbi Yisrael,” he is met with blank stares. The only person named “Yisrael” in the village is a young orphan who sleeps in the shul at night, helps out a bit as a shammes (custodian), and is a ward of the community. Ever watchful, Rabbi Adam’s son discovers that the lad secretly arises every night at chatzos to study the Torah until just before the first minyan begins to arrive before dawn. He leaves a page of the arcane manuscript on the sleeping boy’s chest one night and, from a hidden vantage in the dark, observes how Yisrael wakes up, finds the wondrous folio, and how his face lights up while reading its contents. Then he reveals himself to the youth and tells him the whole story about his father’s deathbed request.

A reluctant Yisrael is persuaded to take his new benefactor under his wing as a disciple. At night in a little hut in the woods they study by candle-light various holy books, including both the theoretical and practical Kabbalah. These works contain formulae for summoning various angels. Once, however, Rabbi Adam’s son in his desire to bring down the Prince of Torah makes a big mistake. “We have brought down the Sar shel Eish, the angel who presides over fire!” Yisrael exclaims. “Warn the townspeople that a fire is about to break out!’

Rabbi Adam’s son does so and is roundly celebrated as a hero and a baal ruach ha-kodesh, one who posseses Divine Inspiration.

However, he remains determined to contact the Prince of Torah, and cajoles Rabbi Yisrael into cooperating with him – and the next time they fail puts their own lives in jeopardy. “ We must both remain awake until dawn, when the Angel of Death will depart” Rabbi Yisrael tells him with alarm. “If either of us falls asleep, even for a second, he will lose his life!” They maintain their vigil until just before dawn, when Rabbi Adam’s son begins to doze off—and immediately perishes.

This is a more or less a synopsis of what it says in Shivchey Baal Shem Tov. However, I once saw a version of the story – which, of course, I can’t locate at the moment – that describes the passing of Rabbi Adam’s son with the words “immediately something like two threads of flame entered his nostrils, and he died.”

When in the midst of writing this essay I sent out a cyber cry of distress, Dr. Alan Brill sent me back an email that the version I seek may be found in “Gabriel's Palace: Jewish Mystical Tales” by Howard Schwartz, p. 326. That’s not where I first saw it, which was many years ago, long before this book was published. But evidently Mr. Schwartz was familiar with the same source.

Presuming that this is a how the original story was told, at least by some, most contemporaries of the Baal Shem Tov would have instantly recognized this phrase as a quote from Rashi’s commentary on the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aharon who brought a fire offering of their own initiative into the Mishkan and perished at the hand of Heaven (see beginning of Parshas Shemini.) Thus, the story implies that Rabbi Adam’s son was guilty of a similar sin, in that he ventured into sublime realms for which he lacked the right passport and visa.

Perhaps this detail of the story has another meaning, as well. If our theory is correct, it may unlock the mystery of how “Rabbi Yisrael” acquired the title “Baal Shem Tov,” Master of the Good Name.

This unusual nickname has long puzzled scholars and laymen alike. Some explain that a practical kabbalist of that period was commonly known as a “Baal Shem,” one who had mastered the secrets of Divine Names and their miraculous powers. Some of these fellows were surely charlatans, hence the term “Baal Shem Tov”—the “good” Baal Shem, who was not a “bad” one like some others. Or maybe the name means that he was a master of the “Good Name,” as opposed to the names used in black magic. Or maybe the name simply means that he possessed a “good name,” in that he was a man of exemplary character. There are other theories, too.

However, the truth may lie in another commentary of Rashi, this time on a well-known mishnah in Pirkey Avos—Chapter 4, Mishnah 13 (or 12 in some versions). “There are three crowns: the crown of royalty, the crown of the priesthood, and the crown of Torah. But the crown of a good name is more exalted than them all.”

Rashi comments that an example of this is Daniel and his companions, who were known for their virtuous deeds. Therefore, when they were tossed into the fire, they miraculously emerged unharmed. By contrast, Rashi adds, Nadav and Avihu were sons of Aharon and had received the holy oil of anointing (shemen mishchas kodesh), but they were killed by fire when they entered the holy precincts to offer “strange fire” on their own initiative. This is Rashi’s proof that the crown of a good name trumps that of the priesthood.

This may have suggested the name “Baal Shem Tov” to some of Rabbi Yisrael’s followers after the story of the death of Rabbi Yisrael’s son began to get around.

Like Nadav and Avihu, Rabbi Adam’s son attempted an avodah, a spiritual service, for which he was not sufficently prepared. Therefore he died a similar death, as suggested by the description of two “threads of flame” entering his nostrils. But like Daniel and his companions, Rabbi Yisrael was immune to this fate due to his merits—his “good name.” Thus, he became renowned as the “Baal Shem Tov.”

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rabbi Lazer Brody's Fall Tour

Emuna –The eye of the storm
November 2nd–18th
Join Rabbi Lazer Brody in Breslev Israel’s USA Canada

Fall Tour Begin the New Year with the tried and true wisdom to empower your soul and achieve your potential.

New Jersey
Saturday – Nov 3rd
If You Live It, You Can Give It: Raising Children With Emuna
Minyan Shelanu
145 Ocean Avenue (RT88), Lakewood,NJ

Sunday Nov 4th
Gratitude: The Key to Life’s Blessings
Torah Ohr
575 Middle Neck Road
Great Neck, NY 11024

Monday Nov 5th
The Right Vote
Young Israel of Midwood
1694 Ocean Ave (cornerofAvenue L)
Brooklyn, NY

Tuesday Nov 6th
He Said,She Said: Secrets to Creating Marital Harmony
Chazaq/Young Israel of Kew Garden Hills
70111 50th Street
Flushing, NY 11367
Wednesday November 7th

Congregation Light of Israel
1675 Monroe Avenue
Rochester, NY 14618

Thursday Nov 8th
Private Event
Shabbaton Chayei Sara
November 9/10
Agudath Israel of the Five Towns
508 Peninsula Blvd, Cedarthurst
More Information:

Saturday, November10th
Agudath Israel of the Five Towns
508 Peninsula Blvd, Cedarthurst
7:30 PM
More Information

Los Angles Sunday,November 11th
Private Event

Monday, November 12th
Location - Fantasyland Hotel
Time - Nov. 12 @ 7:30 pm
Title - The "Rambo" Rabbi - Discovering G-d from the Battlefield to Our Daily Lives
Deluxe Dessert will be served
$10.00 in advance | $12.00 at the door
For more info and reservations call 780-452-6620

Tuesday,November 13th
Emuna,What is it? How Faith Can Enhance Your Life
Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue
100 Elder St.
$10 @ the door per night
To reserve, Call:(416)827-7666

Wednesday,  November 14
Do you know Where Your Children Are? Why we are losing so many of our children to the negative forces surrounding them and how can we get them back
Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue
100 Elder St.
$10 @ the door per night
To reserve,Call:(416)827-7666

Thursday, November15th
HaShem,Where Are You?: Finding God Within Life's Challenges
Congregation Toras Chaim
7119 Bremerton Ct.,
Dallas, Texas 75252

November 16-17
Ohr HaTorah
DALLAS, TX 75230

Ohr HaTorah

Sunday, November18th
In HaShem we trust: The Universal Message of Thanksgiving
Montgomery Event Center (Downtown)
500 W. Main
Oklahoma City
3PM / 405-633-2402

ForMore information,or to schedule a private meeting with Rabbi Lazer Brody please contact us at

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Wide Ripple Effects of Honesty

Painting by Helen Frankenthaler

The Wide Ripple Effects of Honesty 
Likutey Moharan I, 93
Translation and (Tentative) Commentary by Dovid Sears

This posting was inspired a conversation in Uman with my wonderful photographer-friend Abba Richman of Jerusalem. His wife is well-known as a gifted and insightful teacher of Likutey Moharan and other Breslov works to women. May they both have a good and sweet year, with good health, simchah and nachas. It is also a response to some of the bad news we have heard in recent weeks concerning dishonesty in business in our community. This is not only contrary to the “law of the land,” but contrary to Jewish law and Jewish mysticism. May we all take the following teaching from Rebbe Nachman to heart, and thereby not only avoid chillul Hashem, disgracing G-d’s Name, but bring ahavas Hashem, love of G-d, into the world. “Ki Ha-Shem meshutaf bi-shemeinu”—“God’s Name is bound up with our names” (Rashi on Bamidbar 26:5).

Rebbe Nachman begins:

Whoever conducts his business affairs faithfully thereby fulfills the positive mitzvah of “you shall love [God]” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

We have translated “masa u-matan be-emunah” literally, as “conducting one’s business faithfully.” But this expression really means honesty on all of one’s financial doings, regardless of how one earns a livelihood. Even a person who doesn’t have a job but receives financial assistance from another source must be honest in all monetary matters.

The RamBaM counts the love of God as one of the 613 Scriptural commandments in Sefer HaMitzvos, Positive Commandment 3. In his view, this may be accomplished through contemplation. However, as the Rebbe goes on to state, there are other ways, as well.

This is the root of all the positive commandments, as it is written in the “Tikkunim(Tikkuney Zohar, Tikkun 21, 52a)  on the verse “And prepare for me a tasty meal, such as I love” (Genesis 27:4)—“mi-pikudin de-asei,” from the positive commandments.

The Tikkuney Zohar reads Isaac’s statement as if it had been said by G-d. “Such as I love” denotes the positive mitzvos, while whatever G-d does not love but desires that we repudiate is associated with the negative mitzvos. The latter are associated with yirah, holy fear. Although they are fewer in number (248 as opposed to 365), the positive mitzvos occupy a higher level in that they implicitly bear within themselves the hidden purpose of creation as a whole—the “tasty meal.”

Being the root of the positive mitzvos, love of God is thus the main point of our entire avodah, our divine service.

And how does one fulfill the mitzvah “you shall love [God]”? As the Gemara states on the verse “you shall love”—“you should see to it that the Name of Heaven becomes beloved through you. How so? When a person reads [the Written Torah] and studies [the Oral Torah] and serves Torah sages; and he deals with others in a pleasant manner; and he does business faithfully—what do people say? ‘Fortunate is the one who taught him Torah’ ” (Yoma 86a).

Thus, Heaven’s Name becomes beloved through him, and he fulfills the mitzvah of “you shall love,” which is the root of all the mitzvos.

According to Chazal, love of God is expressed by causing others to love God. This seems to imply that it is not enough to love God subjectively; love of God is only worthy of the name when it overflows and becomes manifest in one’s outer behavior, thereby causing others, as well, to love God. This seems consistent with the world-affirming, “no man is an island” ethic of classical Judaism.

Note, too, that the Rebbe singles out the last good practice in the series, that of conducting one’s business affairs faithfully. From this it would seem that this is not only the last item in the list, but the culmination of all that precedes it.

In adddition, by conducting one’s business affairs faithfully one comes to the level that is beyond time.

This denotes what the kabbalists call mochin de-gadlus, “expanded consciousness,” where the mind is irradiated by Divinity.

As the Gemara (ibid.) concludes: “And the verse states of him, ‘Israel, in you I take pride’ (Isaiah 49:3).

That is, one who behaves in the manner described by the Gemara is a source of pride to God and is worthy of the name “Israel.”

“Israel” exists in thought, as in the exposition of our Sages, of blessed memory: “Israel arose in thought.” (Bereishis Rabbah 1:5) And thought transcends time.

The Midrash asserts that God’s first thought in creation was Israel—that the Jewish people should come into existence, in order to serve Him through performing the mitzvos. And as Rebbe Nachman has stated, the essence of this service is love of God, which is thus the consummation of the entire work of creation

The Zohar also teaches: “Israel arose in thought … [Israel] was the first in ‘Thought,’ namely Chokhmah Ila’ah (Supernal Wisdom)” (Tikkuney Zohar, Tikkun 69, 100a). This implies that the souls of Israel collectively are not a “creation,” but an emanation and extention of Divinity. “Israel arose first in Thought / God’s Mind.” And as we declare every day, “Hashem Echad,” God is One. Thus, in its essence the soul remains eternally bound up with God in absolute unity.

What is more, by conducting one’s business affairs faithfully one is enabled to pray with a clear mind; for prayer is also beyond time, since it is “something that stands in the heights of the universe” (Berakhos 6b).

Elsewhere, the Rebbe describes a “clear mind” (sekhel tzach) as characterized by the ability to remain mentally focussed and lucid without making any special effort; one is already “there.” See Likutey Moharan I, 76.

Thus, since one has attained love, one attains expanded consciousness and is able to pray with a clear mind.

By relating the “clear mind” of prayer to the level that is “beyond time,” the Rebbe informs us that this is an example of expanded consciousness, where the mind is irradiated by Divinity.

This short lesson succinctly drives home the message that our ordinary activities and the most exalted states of consciousness are interdependent, and there should be no true “split” in our lives between the sacred and the profane, the mystical and the mundane. In fact, the seemingly lowest things actually serve as gates and accessories to the highest—those matters that “stand in the heights of the universe.”


In this vein, there is another short teaching at the end of the first chelek of Likutey Moharan, Torah 286, which makes this connection in another context: studying halakhah. I hope we will be able to present this with a bit of explanation in the near future, with God’s help.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Canfei Nesharim: Core Teaching #13: We are How We Eat

We are happy to note that this important "Core Teaching" in Canfei Nesharim and Jewcology's ongoing series quotes both Rebbe Nachman and Reb Noson. It also cites Sarah Schneider, a leading Orthodox intellectual and spiritual teacher in Israel, who authored a wonderful little book on holy eating a number of years ago. We strongly encourage our readers to explore these essays, as well as everything that Canfei Nesharim and Jewcology have produced to raise the level of awareness in our communities on these critically important issues.

Received via e-mail from Canfei Nesharim:

Eating food is a significant part of the Jewish spiritual path, and Jewish teachings and practices pr
We are How We Eat: A Jewish Approach to Food and Sustainability
We are How We Eat: A Jewish Approach to Food and Sustainability

ovide guidance for how to eat in a holy manner. 


Rebbe Nachman of Breslov identifies the desire for food and drink as the central desire of the human being, and the one from which other desires emanate. In Rabbi Tzadok Hacohen's "A Treatise on Eating," he cites the mystical book of the Zohar, which calls the moment of eating "the time of combat."  This is because in eating a Jew must engage in the spiritual fight to ensure the act is a holy one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BRI Announcement: Likutey Moharan Siyum - This Sunday (10/28)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Terrace on the Park
52-11 111th Street • Flushing, NY 11368
It is with great happiness that we announce that the final volume of Likutei Moharan has just been printed. It was only due to your generosity and encouragement that we were able to see this 30+ year project through to the end. We are forever indebted to all of those who contributed and may it be an everlasting merit for them and their families.
On October 28, 2012, Jews of all stripes will stand together in celebration of this monumental achievement and bring recognition to a wondrous body of knowledge now available for the taking.
We hope that you can join us at the Siyum and invite you to reserve a page in our dinner journal. If you are unable to attend the dinner, your contribution to the journal will be a greatzechus for yourself or a loved one. We intend to broadcast the Siyum live over the web.

For Reservations and/or Journal Ads Click Here

Tel: 1-800-33-BRESLOV (1-800-33-27375)
Fax: 732-608-8461

An Observation

(Painting by Moreen Greenberg of Tsfat)

An Observation
Dovid Sears

In Rebbe Nachman's story of "The Seven Beggars," the wedding couple yearns for each of the holy beggars who fed them while they were lost in the forest, and in the midst of their yearning each beggar appears, one by one. Typically, the beggar hugs and kisses them, announcing that the blessing he gave long ago is now his wedding gift to them -- that they too will possess the beggar's special quality. 

However, the first and fourth beggars do not "hug and kiss" the chosson and kallah like the rest. Why?

If the seven beggars parallel the seven lower sefiros, the first beggar corresponds to Chesed, while the fourth corresponds to Netzach. In kabbalistic tradition (as in the Chassidic custom for counting the Ushpizin on Sukkos), Chesed is personified by Avraham Avinu and Netzach by Moshe Rabbeinu -- neither of whom had human teachers. 

Perhaps the Rebbe alludes to this fact with this detail of his story. Because these two tzaddikim did not have the same physical link as the other preeminent tzaddikim with their mentors, the first and fourth beggars refrain from hugging and kissing the wedding couple, who are their disciples.  

It is also noteworthy that neither did the Baal Shem Tov, who was the founder and thus the "first" of the modern Chassidic movement -- a modern "Avraham Avinu," if we may draw the comparison. Nor did Rebbe Nachman, whose name is gematria "Netzach," the fourth sefirah, and who always was accustomed to be called to the Torah for the fourth aliyah... 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hitbodedut and Hashem’s Name

Excerpted from “Hitbodedo-It: The Science, Art and Heart of Hitbodedut” (unpublished ms.) by Rabbi Perets Auerbach. Source references and glossary have been omitted from this online version.

      The beginning of hitbodedut is meditation on being in the Presence of God. This itself can be expanded and expounded to become an entire discussion unto itself. It involves talking about omniscience. The Divine light fills all worlds and surrounds all worlds, is above all worlds and beneath all worlds. This can be expanded to wider and wider horizons of hasagot Elokut (Divine perception).

      “Shiviti [I put] YHVH always before me” (Psalms 16:8).  The Arizal explains that the verse refers to seeing the Tetragrammaton always before the mental eyes. This is a great foundation of yirah. “And the appearance of God [i.e., seeing YHVH] is as [letters of] consuming [white] fire at the top of the mountain [the soul source]—to the [mental] eyes of the children [offshoots of Israel [i.e., the Eyn Sof, or Infinite, as expresed in Zeir Anpin of Atsilut]” (Exodus 24:17). Envision the Name in fiery white shining letters.

            A word about what this can lead to: There is a famous story of a group of Jews who dwelled in an Arab country. A certain sheik was known to miraculously help people. A tzaddik who lived there wanted to fathom the secret source of his power. He was very wise also in secular wisdom, which he had heard that the sheik loved. So he went to the sheik and allowed him to pose any question he had. The sheik was delighted to see a great display of wisdom and receive answers the likes of which he had never known before. After going through many topics, they finally reached the sheik’s favorite issues of knowledge. At this point the tzaddik told him that he would proceed only if the sheik told him his secret. At first he declined. However, when he saw that the tzaddik was adamant about not revealing any more knowledge, he acquiesced to reveal his secret. He told the tzaddik to fast and immerse and to meet him on a certain day. The tzaddik did so. The sheik took him into special hidden chambers and showed the source of his secret power: The tzaddik saw a big engraving of the Tetragrammaton. Because the sheik treated it with great respect, he merited to be answered very directly.

      Many have heard this story only to feel disappointed at what seemed to be leading to a great revelation, but ended up being anti-climatic. Don’t we already know that? In truth, it is a great piece of mussar. It demonstrates how important it is to honor God’s Name and how good the results can be. But there is something more.

      “I walk before God in the land of the living” (Psalms 116:9). Did we think that anyone is up and walking in the land of the dead?! Why would Dovid HaMelekh hint to zombies? We have no known record of any episode of Alfred Hitchcock, Vincent Price, or even “Creature Feature” dating back to his time.      

     “And you who cleave to God your Lord are all alive today” (Deuteronomy 4:4). Life is only genuine if it is connected to the Source of All. And Divine life-force is channeled through God’s Names. A basic way of cleaving to God is through picturing His name. This is called walking before Him in a true state of life. One can merit to know everything just by seeing how the Name reacts. If you are pondering doing something, see if the Name “shines.”

     In order for this to work, one needs to be aligned. Rebbe Nachman’s story of ‘The King Who Decreed Destruction” tells of a king who fell upon a way to conquer the world without war. Each one of the seven planets (the Kabbalists count only seven) shines its energy into one of the seven continents, and also into seven types of metals. The king gathered the metals and made them into the form of a man—the head of gold, the body of silver, the other limbs from other metals. (This echoes of the form seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his dream in the Book of Daniel. He too was king of the whole world.) This statue was placed upon a high mountain, where all of the planets shine. When a person needed advice on whether or not to do something, he would go to the mountain, meditate on his question, and gaze at the man. If it shined, he knew that it was the thing to do; if not, not. The “mountain man” only worked if the king “subdued the high and uplifted the lowly” (Siddur).

            Providence transmits destiny to nature by means of the planets and constellations. The statue represents the partzuf of the sefirot as they are expressed within nature. The Tetragrammaton manifests through the concept of “adam ha’elyon”—by way of the form of a spiritual human archetype. For one who is connected to God, He will shine His light through the Tetragrammaton, causing it to light up when the meditator ponders doing something that he should do. This is similar to the letters of the breastplate that lit up when the Kohen Gadol sought counsel, when the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem.

      God says to one who is proud, “This world is not big enough for both of us!” In order to see the Name in lights, one must subjugate the higher parts in himself—
pride—and raise up the low parts—low self-esteem. One has to really believe that God dwells within him and is there, ready to give direct answers.

      In the story, the statue was used for selfish power and intrinsically was coming from Other Side. “ELHYM made this opposite that” (Ecclesiastes). From it can be learned “the advantage of light from darkness” (ibid.) about the way it works on the good side. “And I poured out My king on Zion, My holy mountain” (Psalms 2:6). This refers to Mashiach, who is the human embodiment of the adam ha’elyon. He collectively includes the entire “awakening from below” of all of mankind, from the whole world, throughout the entire six millennia. He will put the finishing touches on this collective effort, “customize it,” and take it all upstairs to complete the redemption. He is in the category of Dovid HaMelech, whose energy manifests in space upon Mount Zion/malchut. Malchut, the seventh sefirah, includes the entire world, in all of its aspects of seven (continents, planets, metals). They all shine into malchut, which receives them, concentrates their energy, and through this can be used to receive advice.

      The way to actualize all of this is in the self is through hitbodedut. Always speak to God as if He is there—because He really is! Don’t hold yourself too small to see His name. “Shiviti” is a basic privilege that everyone has a right to fulfill—no matter who they are, where they find themselves, and to where they have fallen. Focus on the name while having hitbodedut. This unearths one’s own personal messianic point. (This is something to focus on when saying the words in Shemoneh Esreh “Make speedily sprout the scion of Dovid Your servant...”—that one’s personal Mashiach-point should surface.) “And raise his horn in Your salvation”—the horn of your soul should be elevated to its fullness (see Likutey Moharan I, 17).

            The author of Chovot HaLevavot states that one who concentrates for three days straight on the Name will merit to see the unseen, hear what is not heard, and know the unknown. Even one who has not yet mastered to hold the awareness for so long can merit to see the Name shine, scintillate, and give true answers by simply treating God and His name with proper honor by always remembering being in His Presence and by constantly speaking to Him.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Michlal Yofi

Available via

Compiled by Reb Shlomo Yehudah Weitzhandler.

Rabbi Moshe Rosen of Everything Breslov writes: A sensational new sefer which will definitely have a great impact on all Breslover Chassidim. The sefer is a commentary on Likutey Moharan,and is arranged according to the lessons. It covers both the first and the second parts known as "Kamma" and "Tinyana". The author took painstaking effort to provide all existing material, both from printed sources that are not commonly known,and from manuscripts that have yet to be published. Many famous Breslover personalities and mashpiim, the majority from this past generation, have contributed to this masterpiece,each one expounding on different lessons. A must for every Breslover Chassid! 

Publishing data:Meshech Hanachal 2012  
686pp. 7"x9" HB without nekudos

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Yosef Karduner's Fall Tour

We are pleased to announce the YOSEF KARDUNER
October 2012 tour schedule.
Exclusive sales of Yosef Karduner's brand new CD entitled 'Simple Words' will be available at all concerts
(for other booking opportunities email or call Shmuel S. @ 917-902-9087)

Motsai Shabbos Oct. 20 @ 9:00PM
Aish Kodesh Hilula
Featuring Divrei Torah from Rav Moshe Weinberger
Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst
8 Spruce St.
Cedarhurst, NY 
Admission $10/Member's $15/ Non Members 
Separate Seating

Sunday Oct. 21 @ 7:00PM
Cong. Adas Yeshurun-Chicago
3050 W Touhy Ave.
Admission $10/children & students 
Separate Seating

Sunday Oct. 25 @ 8:30PM
575 Middle Neck Road
Great Neck, NY
Admission $15
Separate Seating

Motsai Shabbos Oct. 27 @ 9:00PM
Chevra Ahavas Yisroel
1349 President Street
Crown Heights
Admission $10 / Suggested Donation $18
Separate Seating

Sunday Oct. 28 @ 7:00PM
Cong. Orach Chaim
1459 Lexington Ave (@95th St.)
New York City
Admission Free
Separate Seating

New Issue of "Tzaddik" Available

The fall 2012 issue of Tzaddik Magazine, published by members of the Tsfat Breslov community, is now available here:

Accompanied by the lovely graphics we have come to expect, it includes teachings by Rav Elazar Kenig and others, as well as a richly-insightful dialogue between Rabbi Ephraim Kenig and internationally-acclaimed author and activist, Elie Wiesel. 

Motza'ei Shabbos Minhagim

From “Breslov Eikh Shehu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present

Collected by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

This is still a work-in-progress, so please read this material in that light. We hope to add source references in future versions.

This section mainly records Reb Gedaliah Kenig’s minhagim and those of his son, Reb Elazar Kenig, leader of the Tsfas kehillah. However, we intend to research and present the minhagim of other noted Breslov figures as well.

In Tzefas, the mispalelim clean the tables, etc., in the synagogue and remove the garbage immediately after Ma'ariv. When Reb Elazar was in better health, he used to participate in this personally. This reflects his stringency in general regarding kevod beis-ha-knesses.


Reb Gedaliah was particular to recite Havdalah over a cup containing a revi'is of wine left over from the Friday night Kiddush. (Therefore, he made Kiddush on Friday night in a large glass.)


Reb Gedaliah held the besamim throughout Havdalah, from beginning to end (except when gazing at his fingernails).


According to halakhah, one recites "borei minei besamim" even over hadasim during Havadalah. Reb Elazar usually recites this berakhah over cloves or other such spices and then also smells the hadassim used at the beginning of the Friday night se'udah. This is in keeping with the minhag of the Arizal.


After reciting the berakhah “Borei me’orei ha-aish,” Reb Gedaliah would gaze at the fingernails of both hands, first while closed into his palms, then while extended toward the candle, and again while closed into his palms. However, the thumbs would remain hidden at all times.


Reb Noson Zvi Kenig of Bnei Brak used to look at the fingernails of his right hand only, with his fingers closed into his palm over the thumb, following the minhag of the ARI zal.


After extinguishing the candle in the remnants of wine in the plate, Reb Gedaliah would dip the little fingers of each hand in the wine and touch the area under his eyebrows three times, followed by his pockets three times, followed by the place of the luz bone at the back of the neck three times.


Reb Gedaliah then added water to the kos, and drank the rest of the wine. This custom is based on Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer.


The verses of "Ve-yiten Lekha" are recited after Havdalah, following the minhag of the Arizal. This is a segulah for blessing and success in the week to come. Reb Gedaliah used to do so alone, not necessarily together with family members or talmidim.


Reb Gedaliah also used to sprinkle a few drops of wine from the plate in which the candle had been extinguished under the table as a segulah for shefa. He would also sprinkle a few drops on the floor in the corners of the room.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig)

Melaveh Malkah

The chaveirim used to come to Reb Gedaliah on Motza’ei Shabbos (except on Shabbos Mevorchim, which was reserved for the family Melaveh Malkah). Everyone sang the zemiros together, and Reb Gedaliah distributed candies; however, the chaveirim did not eat the Melaveh Malkah meal with him. Reb Gedaliah said that Reb Avraham always told a ma'aseh about the Baal Shem Tov on Motza’ei Shabbos, but he used to learn the Rebbe’s Sippurei Ma’asiyos instead. He would read the entire ma’aseh in Yiddish without interruption, and only then offer a few words of explanation.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)


Reb Elazar usually sings the zemiros of Melaveh Malkah together with a few chaveirim in his home, but does not learn Sippurei Ma’asiyos at this time. Often he adds a few chiddushim to the teaching he gave over during Shaloshudes, or learns something from Likkutei Halakhos. Like his father, he usually eats after his guests have left.


Before reciting the Melaveh Malkah zemiros, Reb Gedaliah would say the "Askinu se'udasa" three times.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)


In Tzefas, the Melaveh Malkah seder ha-zemiros is: 1) Be-Motza'ei Yom Menuchah; 2) Chadesh Sesoni; 3) Agil vi-Esmach; 4) Elokim Yis'adenu; 5) Eyli Chish Go’ali; 6) Adir Oyom vi-Nora; 7) Ish Chassid Hoyo. At this point, someone usually tells a story of a tzaddik, or delivers a d'var Torah. Then the singing resumes with 8) Omar HaShem le-Yaakov; 9) Hamavdil; and 10) Eliyohu ha-Novi / Purah Darakhti. Then the olam sings the niggun that has in recent years been combined with the words from Likkutei Moharan II, 48: “Mitzvah gedolah lihiyos be-simchah tamid.” There is often a rikkud for this last melody.


Reb Gedaliah sang the entire zemer “Amar HaShem le-Yaakov” slowly and deliberately, interspersing each verse with the Yiddish refrain: “yoh, Tate, yoh” twice; “nein, Tate, nein” (twice); and ending “mir hobben fahr keinem kein moyre tzu hobben, nor fahr dir alein” (twice). However, Reb Elazar usually sings it to the familiar melody attributed to the Baal Shem Tov.


Reb Gedaliah would dance at the end of the seder ha-zemiros. Once he was asked what one should do if there is no other person with whom to dance. “Dance alone!” he replied.
(Heard from Reb Moshe Klebanov)


Reb Avraham Sternhartz and his talmidim did not rush the singing of the Melaveh Malkah zemiros, but did so slowly with yishuv ha-da'as, even if this meant that Tikkun Chatzos would be recited a little later. Reb Elazar said that sometimes his father and his talmidim likewise would go out to the fields for hisbodedus after the conclusion of Melaveh Malkah. However, they would not rush through the zemiros in order to perform the next avodah.


On a regular Motza'ei Shabbos, both Tikkun Rochel and Tikkun Leah are recited for Tikkun Chatzos. This is in keeping with the view of the Sha’arey Tzion (Rav Noson Nota Hanover).

Making Sour Pickles

According to oral tradition, when a follower once complained to Rebbe Nachman about his financial woes, the Rebbe replied, “And what’s wrong with bread and pickles (broyt un ugekers)?”  But you still have to know how to make them! This posting is for those who need or want to create their own supply.

Excerpted from an entry by “wildadmin” on

Growing up in New York City, experiencing my Jewish heritage largely through food, I developed a taste for sour pickles. Most of what is sold in stores as pickles, and even what home canners pickle, are preserved in vinegar. My idea of a pickle is one fermented in a brine solution. Pickle-making requires close attention. My first attempt at brine pickle-making resulted in soft, unappealing pickles that fell apart, because I abandoned it for a few days, and perhaps because the brine was not salty enough, and because of the heat of the Tennessee summer. And and and. “Our perfection lies in our imperfection.” There are, inevitably, fermentation failures. We are dealing with fickle life forces, after all.

I persevered though, compelled by a craving deep inside of me for the yummy garlic-dill sour pickles of Guss’s pickle stall on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and Zabar’s on the Upper West Side and Bubbie’s in upscale health food stores elsewhere. As it turns out, brine pickles are easy. You just need to give them regular attention in the summer heat, when cucumbers are most abundant.

One quality prized in a good pickle is crunchiness. Fresh tannin-rich grape leaves placed in the crock are effective at keeping pickles crunchy. I recommend using them if you have access to grape vines. I’ve also seen references in various brine pickle recipes to using sour cherry leaves, oak leaves, and horseradish leaves to keep pickles crunchy.

The biggest variables in pickle-making are brine strength, temperature, and cucumber size. I prefer pickles from small and medium cucumbers; pickles from really big ones can be tough and sometimes hollow in the middle. I don’t worry about uniformity of size; I just eat the smaller ones first, figuring the larger ones will take longer to ferment.

The strength of brine varies widely in different traditions and recipe books. Brine strength is most often expressed as weight of salt as a percentage of weight of solution, though sometimes as weight of salt as a percentage of volume of solution. Since in most home kitchens we are generally dealing with volumes rather than weights, the following guideline can help readers gauge brine strength: Added to 1 quart of water, each tablespoon of sea salt (weighing about .6 ounce) adds 1.8% brine. So 2 tablespoons of salt in 1 quart of water yields a 3.6% brine, 3 tablespoons yields 5.4%, and so on. In the metric system, each 15 milliliters of salt (weighing 17 grams) added to 1 liter of water yields 1.8% brine.

Some old-time recipes call for brines with enough salt to float an egg. This translates to about a 10% salt solution. This is enough salt to preserve pickles for quite some time, but they are too salty to consume without a long desalinating soak in fresh water first. Low-salt pickles, around 3.5% brine, are “half-sours” in delicatessen lingo. This recipe is for sour, fairly salty pickles, using around 5.4% brine. Experiment with brine strength. A general rule of thumb to consider in salting your ferments: more salt to slow microorganism action in summer heat; less salt in winter when microbial action slows.

Timeframe: 1-4 weeks

Special Equipment:
·         Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket
·         Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
·         1-gallon/4-liter jug filled with water, or other weight
·         Cloth cover
Ingredients (for 1 gallon/4 liters):
·         3 to 4 pounds/1.5 to 2 kilograms unwaxed
·         cucumbers (small to medium size)
·         3⁄8 cup (6 tablespoons)/90 milliliters sea salt
·         3 to 4 heads fresh flowering dill, or 3 to 4
·         tablespoons/45 to 60 milliliters of any form of
·         dill (fresh or dried leaf or seeds)
·         2 to 3 heads garlic, peeled
·         1 handful fresh grape, cherry, oak, and/or
·         horseradish leaves (if available)
·         1 pinch black peppercorns
1.    Rinse cucumbers, taking care to not bruise them, and making sure their blossoms are removed. Scrape off any remains at the blossom end. If you’re using cucumbers that aren’t fresh off the vine that day, soak them for a couple of hours in very cold water to freshen them.
2.    Dissolve sea salt in ½gallon (2 liters) of water to create brine solution. Stir until salt is thoroughly dissolved.
3.    3. Clean the crock, then place at the bottom of it dill, garlic, fresh grape leaves, and a pinch of black peppercorns.
4.    Place cucumbers in the crock.
5.    Pour brine over the cucumbers,place the (clean) plate over them, then weigh it down with a jug filled with water or a boiled rock. If the brine doesn’t cover the weighed-down plate, add more brine mixed at the same ratio of just under 1 tablespoon of salt to each cup of water.
6.    Cover the crock with a cloth to keep out dust and flies and store it in a cool place.
7.    Check the crock every day. Skim any mold from the surface, but don’t worry if you can’t get it all. If there’s mold, be sure to rinse the plate and weight. Taste the pickles after a few days.
8.    Enjoy the pickles as they continue to ferment. Continue to check the crock every day.
9.    Eventually, after one to four weeks (depending on the temperature), the pickles will be fully sour. Continue to enjoy them, moving them to the fridge to slow down fermentation.