Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum's Spring Lecture Tour


Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum's USA Tour June 1-18

June 2: Shabbaton at The Carlebach Shul, NYC
June 3: Class in Queens NY
June 4-8: Bay Area CA
June 8-10: Nederland TX
June 11-13: Orlando FL
June 14-18: Murray KY

Details of these events available through sponsoring organizations or www.azamra.org

R. Avraham Greenbaum (Avraham ben Yaakov) is an internationally-known teacher of Torah spirituality, Chassidut, Kabbalah, preventive healthcare, healing and environmental responsibility, and the author of over twenty-five books. He heads the Azamra Institute in Jerusalem.

Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment: Canfei Nesharim


Received via e-mail from Canfei Nesharim:


I am pleased to share with you the sixth set of resources – Countering Destruction: Lessons from Noah.  The video is available at http://youtu.be/Qw1v1WCqk0E and the podcast is available at http://canfeinesharim.podbean.com/2012/05/16/countering-destruction-lessons-from-noach/.

These materials are posted as part of Canfei Nesharim’s “Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment,” in partnership with Jewcology.com. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pirkey Avos, Chapter 6



Mishnah 4

כַּךְ הִיא דַּרְכָּהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה, פַּת בַּמֶּלַח תֹּאכֵל וּמַיִם בַּמְּשׂוּרָה תִּשְׁתֶּה וְעַל הָאָרֶץ תִּישָׁן וְחַיֵּי צַעַר תִּחְיֶה וּבַתּוֹרָה אַתָּה עָמֵל אִם אַתָּה עֹשֶׂה כֵּן אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ אַשְׁרֶיךָ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְטוֹב לָךְ לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא:
אַל תְּבַקֵּשׁ גְּדֻלָּה לְעַצְמְךָ, וְאַל תַּחְמוֹד כָּבוֹד יוֹתֵר מִלִּמּוּדֶךָ. עֲשֵׂה, וְאַל תִּתְאַוֶּה לְשֻׁלְחָנָם שֶׁל שָׂרִים, שֶׁשֻּׁלְחָנְךָ גָּדוֹל מִשֻּׁלְחָנָם וְכִתְרְךָ גָּדוֹל מִכִּתְרָם, וְנֶאֱמָן הוּא בַּעַל מְלַאכְתְּךָ שֶׁיְּשַׁלֶּם לְךָ שְׂכַר פְּעֻלָּתֶךָ:

Thus is the way of Torah: Bread with salt you shall eat, measured water you shall drink, on the ground you shall sleep, and a life of privation you shall live, while in the Torah you shall labor. If you do so, “You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you” (Psalms 128:2). “You shall be happy” – in this world; “and it shall be well with you” – in the World to Come.

Do not seek greatness for yourself, and do not crave honor more than your knowledge. Let action [exceed your learning]. And do not desire the table of kings – for your table is greater than their table, your crown is greater than their crown, and your Employer can be relied upon to reward your deeds.

Digest of Commentaries:

Measured water you shall drink. The Hebrew word mesurah (“measured”) denotes a small liquid measure, as mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel (4:11), “And water in small measure shall you drink.”

On the ground you shall sleep, and a life of privation you shall live, while in the Torah you shall labor. Even if you have nothing to eat but bread and salt, do not desist from studying the Torah (Rashi). Others interpret this teaching as addressing the affluent. Those who possess the means to pursue the pleasures of this world should not be fooled by material pleasures, but strive to acquire the wisdom of the Torah (Midrash Shmuel).

Do not seek greatness for yourself, and do not crave honor more than your knowledge. Once you have dedicated yourself to the Torah, do not seek power or honor, which would make it appear as if you are studying for ulterior motives (Rashi).

Do not desire the table of kings – for your table is greater than their table. Your table in the World to Come is greater than the table of kings in this world.

*
Eye on the Goal

Rebbe Nachman: One can become a vessel fit for holiness only by overcoming many obstacles in his quest for God (Likutey Halakhot, Nizkey Shekhenim 3:8).

*

“You shall be happy” – in this world

Rebbe Nachman: Most people find this teaching difficult to understand. After describing the struggles we must endure for the Torah – “Bread with salt you shall eat, measured water you shall drink, on the ground you shall sleep, and a life of privation you shall live, while in the Torah you shall labor” – how can the Sages say, “'You shall be happy' – in this world”?

However, there really is no question. Anyone who has eyes to see and a heart to understand knows that this teaching means exactly what it says; and he can explain it to any intelligent person who has had the least bit of familiarity with the “good life” of this world.

The wealthiest men will tell you that this world is full of worry and suffering. The rich suffer all the time, every day and every hour. Thus our Sages observe, “The more possessions, the more worry” (Avot 2:7).

The poor may not realize this. They may think that if they were wealthy, they would no longer have any problems. But they are greatly mistaken, as we can plainly see. The truth is as our Sages have taught.

Whether you are rich or poor, you cannot avoid worry. The world is filled with pain and suffering, and there is no escape. If you are a man, you must worry about earning a living, and you may suffer because of your wife and children. If you are a woman, you may feel that your husband is the cause of your unhappiness, or you may suffer from physical maladies. Many people suffer from sickness or severe injuries, may God spare us. There is no escape—except to the Torah.

If you desire the good of this world and wish to live in tranquility, free of distress, you will be constantly frustrated. The more you seek the “good life,” the more you will find the opposite. Even if you manage to attain some fleeting happiness, whatever you grasp will be commingled with suffering. Look truthfully, and you will see this for yourself.

Consequently, in this world, “there is no wisdom, understanding or advice” (Proverbs 21:30) if you wish to live in tranquility. Instead, you should live in the simplest way possible, subsisting on an absolute minimum, as Pirkey Avot advises, “Bread with salt you shall eat … and a life of privation you shall live.” Accept hardship and privation in order to labor in Torah. Only then will you know true life, even in this world. “If you do so, ‘You shall be happy … in this world.’” This is certainly true.

No longer will you suffer from worldly misfortunes. You will have already accepted them upon yourself for the sake of the Torah, which is the true good. Thus your life will be a true life, and you will find happiness even in this world (based on Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #308, abridged). 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In Pursuit of Perfection



First published in Tzaddik Magazine, Tzefat, Israel

This essay was adapted from Likutey Even, Haskamat HaBoker, pp. 9-11, by Reb Ephraim ben Naftali (1800-1882), which he published anonymously during the last year of his life.  Likutey Even was republished in the author’s name in Jerusalem by Reb Gedaliah Aharon Kenig in 1963. Reb Ephraim’s father, Reb Naftali, was one of Rebbe Nachman’s closest followers and lifelong friend of Reb Noson. Reb Ephraim was sent by his father to learn from Reb Noson, and subsequently became one of his closest disciples. On the opening page of his book, Reb Ephraim writes that through the teachings of Rebbe Nachman, “God helped me to collect holy stones from pure yearnings and desires for holiness to make an Even Sh’leimah—a complete stone.”

Ratzo V’Shov: Running and Returning
From the first day of the Omer, we begin a steady process of spiritual ascent that culminates on the fiftieth day with Shavuos, marking the Giving of the Torah. Shavuos is the “Fiftieth Gate,” representing complete union and nullification with God’s Infinite Light— a level of intense longing, called “Desire of Desires.” However, the truth is that it is impossible to attain this level completely in this life.

The Omer counting is marked by a dynamic called ratzo v’shov—“running and returning.” Based upon the Merkava Vision of the Prophet Ezekiel, this mystical concept pervades Kabbalistic thought, and Rebbe Nachman’s teachings in particular.  Although we are “running” for forty-nine days towards Shavuos, paradoxically, the light of the Fiftieth Gate can only be attained through the idea of “return”—shov. This is because through “running” alone, one would soon cease to exist—destroying the possibility of creating a vessel in which to receive the highest light. Therefore, we refrain from counting the fiftieth day, Shavuos, since we must restrain the soul’s all-consuming desire for God.

Even Moses himself was unable to attain the level of the Fiftieth Gate, since to do so, he would have had to nullify his being completely and shed every vestige of corporeality. Thus, after Moses ascended Mount Sinai, corresponding to the dynamic of “running,” he had to hold himself back, and descend to the encampment of Israel below, corresponding to the aspect of “return.”

Since God desires our service in this world, we, too, must remain in the category of shov—“return,” despite the great desire to break through and run forward as we near the Fiftieth Gate. Only in this manner may we perceive God’s Infinite Light—an experience for which Shavuos, of all the holidays, is the unique paradigm—and through the spiritual “vessels” formed by our mitzvot and good deeds, we may come to know His unity. Then it is possible to realize that everything that happens to us comes from God; therefore, everything is truly good. With this knowledge comes our complete acceptance of God’s sovereignty over all Creation.

© 2001 Nachal Novea Mekor Chochma
Limited copies of the original Hebrew text, Likutey Even, are available from Nachal Novea Mekor Chochma Institutions.

The Answers Are Within Yourself



From the unpublished Breslov Tehillim (work-in-progress), Breslov Research Institute

“I will instruct and enlighten you as to which path to follow” (Psalm 32). Even now that the Torah has been given and everyone is free to choose between the permitted and the prohibited, nevertheless one may be uncertain as to how to uphold the Torah. One may not know which path to follow, the path of the religious philosophers or that of the kabbalists, or which spiritual mentor to follow, etc. In all such things, a person must find the answers within himself. If one truthfully contemplates his ultimate eternal goal, he will surely come to understand which path to walk and to whom he should draw near (LH, Birkhat HaShachar 4:94).  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Andy Statman in Concert Tonight



Educator, raconteur, and - especially - fiddler, Matt Glaser descends from on high (well, Boston) to join the Andy Statman Trio

This Thursday, 17 May at 8:30 (roughly)

The Charles Street Synagogue
53 Charles St @ West 4th St 
Manhattan

twitter: @rcanipper

Pirkey Avos, Chapter 5



This sample from the Breslov Pirkey Avot corresponds to the chapter to be studied this coming Shabbos, parshas Behar-Bechokosai.

This is also dedicated to the memory of a beloved friend and teacher, Rabbi Akiva Greenberg, zal, who passed away last Shabbos.

Chapter V
Mishnah 13

There are four types of almsgivers: One who agrees to give, but does not allow others to give - his eye is evil toward that which applies to others. One who allows others to give, but he does not give - his eye is evil toward that which applies to him. One who gives and allows others to give - he is a chassid. One who does not give and does not allow others to give - he is an evil man.

One who gives and allows others to give

The legendary Polish Breslover Chassid and tzaddik, Rabbi Ben Zion Apter, lost his wife, children, and his entire family during the Holocaust. But he somehow survived the war and immigrated to Israel, where he was a favorite guest in the courts of many great Chassidic Rebbes. During his later years, would go to weddings and other celebrations to collect money for the poor
 - although he lived in dire poverty himself. A skilled badchan (wedding entertainer), Reb Ben Zion would sing and dance, invent rhymes in Yiddish, and pretend to play the violin, holding an invisible bow across his outstretched beard. Once he entertained a wedding party that included David Ben-Gurion, first Prime Minister of Israel. Ben-Gurion laughed at the old Chassid's antics until the tears came to his eyes.

"For me, a good laugh is a rare and precious thing," the Prime Minister confessed. "How can I repay you for this?"

"Ich hohb tzuris mit di tzeyner - I have troubles with my teeth!" the badchan answered, gesturing comically at his poorly fitting false teeth to indicate the legitimacy of his request.

Ben-Gurion immediately gave Reb Ben Zion his dentist's business card, and promised to make all the necessary arrangements right away.

Sometime later, after receiving the finest dentures available, Reb Ben Zion incorporated this, too, into his routine. "Look!" he would tell everyone, pointing to his mouth. "These are Ben-Gurion's teeth!" (heard from Rabbi Akiva Greenberg, who as a young yeshivah student attended Rabbi Ben Zion Apter)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Lesson in How to Cook Soup



A Tribute to Rabbi Akiva Greenberg and Rabbi Ben Zion Apter

By Dovid Sears 

Last Shabbos (Parshas Emor) the world lost a beautiful Jew—Rabbi Akiva Greenberg, teacher, spiritual advisor and friend to people from all walks of life, especially American baaley teshuvah. During his 79 years, Reb Akiva served as the Rav of Modi’in for Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s community, taught baaley teshuvah at the Hadar HaTorah Yeshivah in Crown Heights, and also was a highly-regarded professor of sociology for many years at Brooklyn’s Touro College.  But one of his most memorable (and favorite) roles was sitting at the Melaveh Malkah table with a group of friends, young and old, singing zemiros and telling stories of tzaddikim with his inimitable joy and enthusiasm.  

One of the autobiographical stories he liked to tell recalled the days when he was a yeshivah bochur in Eretz Yisrael and had the zekhus to attend the legendary Polish Breslover chassid and baal menagen, Rabbi Ben Zion Apter. After having lost his family in the Holocaust, Reb Ben Zion had somehow made his way to Yerushalayim, where he was a favorite guest at many Chassidic courts. His refusal to give in to despair, his hischazkus (encouragement) of others who shared personal tragedies like his own, his witty Torah discussions and especially his treasure trove of Chassidisheh niggunim and lore were precious commodities in those difficult days.  

In the evenings Reb Ben Zion would often make his rounds to the local wedding halls, where he would entertain the guests and collect tzedakah for needy families. Totally removed from “olam hazeh,” he lived alone in a tiny room with little more than a bed, a table, kerosene heater and a hot plate.  

As Reb Akiva told the story, once he came to look in on the elderly chassid and found him in lying in bed due to some malady. For some reason that either Reb Akiva didn’t specify or which I have forgotten, he was a bit down in the dumps that day, but tried to conceal it from his mentor.  

“Can I make you something to eat or drink?” he offered.  

“Yes,” said Reb Ben Zion, “please boil some water for soup.” 

So Akiva put a small pan of water on the hot plate and added a bullion cube as the water came to a boil. Then he served Reb Ben Zion the hot soup.  

After reciting a brochah and taking a first taste, however, he spat out the hot broth—here Reb Akiva grimaced for dramatic effect and made an exclamation of disgust—“This is awful! What are you trying to do to me, Akiva, poison me? This is MORAH SHECHORAH SOUP, depression soup!” 

Aghast, the bochur didn’t know what to say.  

“Akiva,” the elder chassid turned interrogator, “Akiva –you’re depressed, which is the biggest ‘chassidisheh aveirah (sin).’ Come clean. Tell me what’s bothering you.” 

Somehow, he wheedled the story out of him. Then he stood up from his sickbed and announced, “It’s time for a rikkud (dance)!”  

Taking Akiva by the hands, he began to sing and dance around the room, adding some of his wedding antics, such as pretending to play the violin with his beard and then kicking up his heels. Soon Akiva was laughing so hard he couldn’t dance anymore. 

“Now,” Reb Ben Zion concluded, “you can make me a proper cup of soup!” 

May both of the master and student dance together again, with the tzaddikim in Gan Eden, amen. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tikkun ha-Klalli


From “Breslov Eikh she-Hu: Breslov customs and practices, past and present,” compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears 

Since this week corresponds to the sefirah of Yesod, it seems appropriate to post it at this time.


The ten psalms of Tikkun ha-Klalli are a powerful remedy for the spiritual damage caused by nocturnal emissions, particularly when recited on the same day. Beyond this, they are also an effective remedy for all sins when recited in a spirit of teshuvah.
(Likutey Moharan I, 29, 205; ibid. II, 92; Sichos ha-Ran 141; Parpara'os le-Chokhmah on Likutey Moharan II, 92. In English, see Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum, Rabbi Nachman's Tikkun, Breslov Research Institute.)

*

The Rebbe vowed in the presence of two witnesses, Reb Aharon, the Rav of Breslov, and Reb Naftali: "When my days are ended and I leave this world, I will intercede for anyone who comes to my grave, gives charity, and recites these Ten Psalms. No matter how serious his sins and transgressions, I will do everything in my power to save him and cleanse him. I will span the length and breadth of creation for him. By his peyos I will pull him out of Gehenna! I am very positive in everything I say. However, I am more positive about this than anything, when I say that these psalms help very, very much. They are: 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, 150. They should be said in this order, which is the order in which they appear in Sefer Tehillim. This is the Tikkun ha-Klalli, the Complete Remedy. Every sin has its individual remedy, but this is the Complete Remedy. Go out and spread the teaching of these Ten Psalms to all…"
(Sichos ha-Ran 141)

*

Rebbe Nachman promised to spiritually protect any child under the age of seven who comes to his gravesite, gives tzedakah, and recites the Tikkun ha-Klalli, until the child's wedding day. Breslover Chassidim understood this promise to apply even after the Rebbe’s passing. Therefore, it is customary for Chassidim to bring their five or six year old sons to Uman for this purpose today.
(Kokhvei Ohr, Anshei Moharan, [Jerusalem 1983 ed.] p. 89, also cited in Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh I, 368)

*

Since it helps rectify all sins, Tikkun ha-Klalli may be said by men and women alike. Paraphrasing the Zohar, Reb Gedaliah Kenig once remarked: "The pasuk states 'Lo si'uneh eilekha ra’ah (No evil shall befall you)’ - this alludes to the men; 'vi-nega' lo yikrav bi-ohalekha (and no plague shall come near your tent)’ - this alludes to the women. Both benefit from reciting Tikkun ha-Klalli."
(Based on Tehillim 91:10)


I clearly remember hearing the following mesorah many years ago, but so far have been unable to track down its source. If anyone knows a student of Reb Gedaliah who can confirm it, please let me know:

Reb Gedaliah Kenig received a tradition from Reb Avraham Sternhartz that one who recites the Tikkun ha-Klalli every day will benefit in this world, in the World to Come, and on the great and awesome Day of Judgment after the Resurrection of the Dead.
(Cf. Sichos ha-Ran 185. Rabbi Yitzchak Breiter also cites recting Tikkun ha-Klalli daily as a Breslover minhag in his Seder ha-Yom. When he came to Uman, Reb Yitzchak Breiter initially studied with Reb Shimshon Barsky and Reb Avraham Sternhartz, and continued to correspond with them after his return to Poland.)

The Shadchan’s Chair



Translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
From Tzaddik: A Portrait of Rabbi Nachman (Breslov Research Institute), 210
Chayei Moharan  84

In the merit of Rebbe Nachman’s awesome dream, may all those who need to find their proper shidduch succeed in doing so, be-karov!

Shortly before Rosh HaShanah 5569 (at the end of the summer of 5568-1808) the shochet (ritual slaughterer) of Teplik brought the Rebbe a very special chair.[1] In the same period, the Rebbe related a vision or dream he had had. They brought him a chair. It was surrounded by fire.

“The whole world was going to see this chair: men, women and children. On their way back from there, all of a sudden they all became paired up with each other, and marriage relationships were forged between them. All the leaders of the era also went to see the chair. I asked, ‘How far away is it, and for what reason were marriage pairs suddenly formed?’

I went in a circle around them in order to get there, and I heard that Rosh HaShanah soon would be coming. I wasn’t sure whether to return or to remain there. I was undecided. I said in my heart, ‘How can I stay here for Rosh HaShanah? However, intellectually I thought, ‘Considering my physical weakness, why should I go back?’ So there I was, and I came to the chair, and there I saw Rosh HaShanah—the real, actual Rosh HaShanah. The same with Yom Kippur—the real, actual Yom Kippur. The same with Sukkot—the real actual Sukkot. And I heard that they were shouting, ‘Your new moons and festivals My soul hates’ (Isaiah 1:14). ‘What business have you to judge the world? Rosh HaShanah itself will judge.’ Then they all fled, together with the leaders of the era. Everyone fled.

“I saw that the chair was inscribed with the forms of all the creatures in the world—every single one was inscribed there together, with his marriage partner next to him. This was the reason why all the marriage pairs had been formed, because each one was able to see and find his marriage partner there.

“Something I had been studying during the previous few days now came into my mind. There is a verse which says: ‘His throne was fiery flames’ (Daniel 7:9). The first letters of the words Koursey SHevivln Di Nur spell out the word ShaDKhaN—matchmaker. Because it was through the chair that the marriage pairs were made. Furthermore, the word KouRSey (“throne,” spelled khof-reish-samech-yud) is made up of the initial letters of Rosh HaShanah (reish), Yom Kippur (yud, khaf) and Sukkot (samech); this, too, is why Shemini Atzeret [the last of the series of festivals celebrated during the Hebrew month of Tishrei] is the time of the marital union of the Supernal Matron.[2]

“ ’What shall I do for my livelihood?’ I asked. They told me I would be a matchmaker.

“The fire went around it in a circle—because the truth is that Rosh HaShanah is a great goodness to the world. It is the season when the moon is hidden, and of this it is said, ‘Bring an atonement for Me’ (Chullin 60b). This is a great goodness to the whole world, because it is through this that we are able to beg for atonement on Rosh HaShanah.”

© 1987 The Breslov Research Institute



[1] Yemey Moharnat 31; Until The Mashiach, p. 160.  According to tradition, this chair is the one in the Breslov synagogue in Jerusalem.
[2] Zohar III, 96b, 97a. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pirkey Avos Chapter 4


This sample from the Breslov Pirkey Avot corresponds to the chapter to be studied this coming Shabbos, parshas Emor. (Unlike most postings on this website, transliterations from Hebrew in this book reflect the Sefardic pronunciation.)

 4:16


רַבִּי יַעֲקֹב אוֹמֵר, הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה דּוֹמֶה לַפְּרוֹזְדוֹר בִּפְנֵי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. הַתְקֵן עַצְמְךָ בַפְּרוֹזְדוֹר, כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּכָּנֵס לַטְּרַקְלִין:

Rabbi Yaakov said, “This world is like an antechamber before the World to Come. Prepare yourself in the antechamber, so that you may enter the banquet hall.”


Digest of Commentaries:

Prepare yourself in the antechamber – that is, prepare yourself with good deeds in this world – so that you may enter the banquet hall – symbolically, the life of the World to Come. Likewise, our Sages commented on the verse, “'You are to keep the commandments and the statutes and the laws which I command you today, to fulfill them' (Deuteronomy 7:11) – ‘Today, to fulfill them’ – for you cannot perform them tomorrow; ‘today, to fulfill them’ – for tomorrow is designated for receiving their reward” (Eruvin 22a).


Prepare yourself in the antechamber 

Reb Noson: In order to perceive the light of God in the World to Come, you must first seek His light within the constraints of this world – in every day and every moment! (Likutey Halakhot, Birkhot HaRei’yah ve-Sha’ar Berakhot Pratiyot 5:11) 

According to Breslov tradition, “Prepare yourself in the antechamber” also alludes to the days of one's youth. One must be careful during his childhood and teenage years in all his activities, habits and ways, so that when he grows older and matures, he will be a person of refined character. Then, during the difficult years of old age, he will not succumb to any sort of spiritual decline. This has been borne out by experience. Those who exert themselves diligently in their youth and devote themselves to serve God typically hold their ground and continue to advance, even into their old age (Siach Sarfey Kodesh V, 419).


At the Peak of His Powers 

Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz (1862-1955) was a great-grandson of Reb Noson and a grandson of Rabbi Nachman Goldstein, the Tcheriner Rav; he was raised by the latter in Tcherin after his mother passed away when he was a young boy. A child prodigy, Reb Avraham applied himself diligently to his studies and finished the entire Talmud for the second time before his marriage at the age of eighteen. Shortly afterward, he was appointed as Rav of the Breslov community in Kremenchug. 

It is said that during his youth, Reb Avraham used to seclude himself in the synagogue and memorize Likutey Moharan and numerous sections of Likutey Halakhot, some of which are as long as seventy sections. In his later years, he was able to quote these lessons at length without looking at a printed book, to the amazement of his disciples. 

One Rosh HaShanah when Reb Avraham was already in his eighties, he walked down the steep slope beside the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in Meron to perform Tashlich (the rite of symbolically casting away one’s sins). However, he was physically unable to climb all the way back up to the synagogue. So he simply recited an entire discourse from Likutey Moharan right then and there on the hillside, and completed the rest of the climb when he was finished! (heard from Rabbi Elazar Mordechai Koenig).


Praying By Heart 

Another outstanding Breslov leader was Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Bender (1897-1989), who survived the Stalinist purges in the Ukraine and arrived in Jerusalem in 1946, where he emerged as the central figure in the Breslov Meah She'arim community. It is well-known how Reb Levi Yitzchok stressed the importance of waking up in the middle of the night to recite Tikkun Chatzot (the “Midnight Lament” over the destruction of the Holy Temple), in keeping with Rebbe Nachman’s instructions.[i] 

In his old age, Reb Levi Yitzchok was once hospitalized for a certain ailment, and his young students took turns keeping him company in his room. Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, then a yeshivah student in Jerusalem, took the “night shift.” By his own admission, he was curious to see if his revered teacher would recite Tikkun Chatzot. 

Sure enough, just before the time of chatzot prescribed by Rebbe Nachman arrived – six hours after nightfall – Reb Levi Yitzchok opened his eyes. After washing his hands, he immediately began to recite the Psalms and laments of the Tikkun Chatzot from memory, continuing to pray in a whisper until morning (heard from Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz).



[i] See Likutey Moharan II, 67; Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #268, 301; also see Rabbi Asher Zelig Margolios, Kumi Roni, a collection of Kabbalistic and Chassidic sources on Tikkun Chatzot. Magen Avraham cites this custom in his glosses on Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 1:4.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Reb Gedaliah’s Nusach for Shemoneh Esreh


The exact nusach ha-tefillah of Rebbe Nachman is not known, and evidently was not something he stressed. In general, Breslover Chassidim, past and present, have davenned basically the same Nusach Sefard that was common in the Chassidic communities of the Ukraine (notably Skver-Chernobyl), with only a few variations.

Yet Reb Gedaliah Kenig did pay careful attention to the nusach of his teacher Reb Avraham Sternhartz, and learned that there were certain mesorahs that went back to Reb Noson (Reb Avraham’s great-grandfather). Reb Gedaliah privately davenned according to this nusach, as far as he was able to determine it. However, it seems that he did not speak about it until a few of his talmidim succeeded in persuading him to fill them in on the subject. The following is what we have learned about Reb Gedaliah’s nusach for the Shemoneh Esreh, based on that of Reb Avraham, with some added material about Tachanun in Breslov kehillos, in general. (The sources presented below remain incomplete.)

We must add that even the Tzefat kehillah, which was founded by Reb Gedaliah and is led by his son Reb Elazar Mordechai Kenig, does not follow Reb Gedaliah’s nusach in every detail—presumably because he did not make an issue of it to his family and talmidim.

From “Breslov Eikh she-Hu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present,” compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears.

Magen Avraham

In the berakhah “Magen Avraham,” most versions of Nusach Sefard say “vi-konei ha-kol.”  However, Sha’ar ha-Kavannos says “konei ha-kol,” without the vav. In the Tsfas community it is usually said with the vav.
(All versions of the Siddur Arizal omit the vav. So do several Chassidic nus’chos; see Imrey Pinchos [Bnei Brak 2003] vol. I, Sha’ar Seder ha-Yom 86; Siddur Baal ha-Tanya; Siddur Tefillah Yesharah-Berditchev [in hagahah]; Darkey Chaim ve-Shalom [Munkatch] 155; Erkhey Yehoshua [Manistritch], Kuntres Perach Shoshanim 18; Siddur Tzelosa de-Shlomo [Bobov]; et al. This omission is supported by Siddur Rav Amram Gaon, Abudarham, Zohar, Pekudey, Tikuney Zohar, Tikkun 70, et al.)

Atah Gibor

Reb Avraham Sternhartz stated that during the winter, in the berakhah “Atah gibor,” it is our custom to pronounce the word "gashem" with a kametz under the gimel, not "geshem" with a segol. Many Breslovers still do so. However, the pronunciation of geshem with a segol has become more common today.
(Similarly, cf. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender, Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 150. This may be a regional minhag, since the Skverer Chassidim follow it, as did the Manistritcher Chassidim of Uman. However, Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Bnei Brak said that his father, Rabbi Noson Barsky, pronounced “geshem” with a segol. Since Reb Noson Barsky lived in Lublin, Poland, this may reflect the local custom in that region. The vowelization of this word is the subject of halakhic debate.)

*

During the summer, Reb Gedaliah would say "mashiv ha-ru'ach u-morid ha-tal." This is the custom of the Tzefas community. (However, most Breslover kehillos simply say “morid ha-tal,” as is more common.)
(See Be'er Heitiv, Orach Chaim 114:3, and the BaCH, ad loc. This is the nusach of Siddur ARI Kol Yaakov. Among Chassidim, see Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh of Ziditchov, Pri Kodesh Hilulim, in the name of Rabbi Yisrael of Koznitz; Shulchan ha-Tahor [Komarno], 114, with Zer Zahav; Darkhei Chaim vi-Shalom [Munkatch], Shemoneh Esreh 157, in the name of Rabbi Zvi Elimelekh of Dinov; et al. It is also the nusach ha-GRA.)

*

Once Reb Gedaliah was leading the davenning and said "mashiv ha-ru'ach u-morid ha-tal." Apparently this raised some eyebrows. Reb Michel Dorfman, who was present at the time, later asked him about this. Reb Gedaliah replied, “When the Gabbai announces this [on the first day of Pesach], he calls out ‘mashiv ha-ru'ach u-morid ha-tal.’ ”
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

*

However, Reb Avraham Sternhartz only said “morid ha-tal.”
(Heard from Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn)

Chonen  HaDaas

Reb Gedaliah said that Reb Avraham possessed a family mesorah that the Rebbe's nusach in the berakhah "Atah chonen" was "de'ah, binah ve-haskil."
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig. Cf. Siddur Rav Amram Gaon, Abudarham; Pri Eitz Chaim; Siddur RaMaK; Siddur ARI Rav Asher; Siddur Tefillah Yesharah-Berditchev; etc. According to Tefillas Chaim, the annotated Siddur Arizal published recently by Rabbi Daniel Rimmer, this was the nusach of the Arizal.)

*

Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn also remembered that Reb Avraham said “de’ah, binah, ve-haskil." Reb Avraham also told him that this had been the nusach of the Breslover Chassidim in Tcherin.

*

Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn heard that Reb Avraham followed this nusach because Reb Noson often repeats it in Likutey Halakhos, and probably in his letters, as well.

*

This mesorah conflicts with that of Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender, who stated that in Uman, the nusach of this berakhah was “chokhmah, binah ve-da’as.” However, it seems that occasionally there were diverse customs among Breslover Chassidim in Uman.
(See Si’ach Sarfey Kodesh IV, 150)

*

Rabbi Noson Barsky, son of Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Uman, used to say “chokhmah, binah ve-da’as.”
(Heard Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Bnei Brak)

*

Rabbi Noach Cheifetz recalled that Reb Gedaliah once told him to combine both nus’chos: "de'ah, binah ve-haskil, chokhmah, binah ve-da’as.”
(Heard from Rabbi Noach Cheifetz)

*

The custom of the Tzefas community is to say "de'ah, binah ve-haskil,” while in Yerushalayim, it seems that most Breslovers say “chokhmah, binah ve-da’as.”

Atah Kadosh

In “Atah kadosh,” most Breslovers add the words “ki E-l Melekh gadol ve-kadosh Atah.” This is part of the standard Nusach Sefard. It is also the custom of the Tsfas community.
(In support, see Abudarham, based on Siddurey ha-Geonim. However, Sha’ar ha-Kavannos omits this phrase, and it is not found in any versions of the Siddur ARI except that of Rabbi Asher of Brod, which brings it as an alternative nusach. Early Chassidic sources that omit it include Imrey Pinchos [Bnei Brak 2003] vol. I, Sha’ar Seder ha-Yom 87; Siddur Baal ha-Tanya; Siddur Tefillah Yesharim-Berditchev; Siddur Heichal ha-Berakhah-Komarno. The Manistritcher Chassidim in Uman also did not say it, as stated in Erkhey Yehoshua, Kuntres Perach Shoshanim 18; and it is omitted by the communities of Bobov, Munkatch, Spinka, Karlin-Stolin, and Slonim. However, most other Chassidim include it.)

Go’el Yisrael

Reb Avraham’s nusach included the words “u-maher le-g'aleinu ge’ulah sheleimah meherah le-ma'an shemekho…” This is the custom of the Tsfas community.


Rifa’einu

Reb Gedaliah's nusach was: "Rifa'einu (HaShem) ve-neirafei, hoshi’einu vi-nivashe'ah, ki sihilaseinu Atah, vi-ha'alei refuah sheleimah le-khol makhoveinu u-le-khol makoseinu, ki E-l Melekh Rofei Ne'eman vi-Rachaman Atah…" This is the custom of the Tsfas community.
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig, Rabbi Noach Cheifetz, and Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)

*

Reb Elazar Kenig said that what he heard specifically in the name of Reb Avraham was the inclusion of the phrase “le-khol makhoveinu u-le-khol makoseinu.”


Borkheinu

During the summer, Reb Gedaliah would say "Borkheinu" according to the Sefardic custom. This is mentioned in the writings of the Arizal. However, the Tsfas community follows the more common Ashkenazic custom to say "boreikh aleinu" with "ve-sein berakhah" as the seasonal variation for the summer months.
(Cf. Abudarham; Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha'ar ha-'Amidah, 19; Sha’ar ha-Kavannos, etc. Several Chassidic siddurim also include "borkheinu," e.g., Siddur Tefilah Yesharah-Berditchev, Siddur Beis Aharon-Stolin, Siddur Magen Avraham-Slonim, and others.)

*

In “Borekh ‘Aleinu,” Reb Gedaliah said “ve-sab’enu me-tuvah…” not “me-tuvekha.”
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro. Similarly, Siddur ARI Rav Asher; Imrei Pinchos [Bnei Brak 2003] vol. I, Sha’ar Seder ha-Yom 89; Siddur Tefilah Yesharah-Berditchev; et al. This is nusach Ashkenaz; also see Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim 117:2, in the name of Maharshal and Teshuvos ha-Rosh. However, Ohr Tzaddikim brings the nusach “me-tuvekha,” as does the Siddur Baal ha-Tanya and Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom [Munkatch], 163.)


Birkhas HaMinim

Reb Avraham's nusach for "birkhas ha-minim" included the phrase “ve-khol oyvey amkha meherah yikaresu…" Reb Elazar did not know if he then said “ve-ha-zeidim,” "u-malkhus zadon,"  "u-malkhus zeidim," or "u-malchus ha-risha'h." However, the rest of the berakhah followed the standard Nusach Sefard: "meheirah si'aker u-sishaber u-simager u-sikhalem vi-sashpilem vi-sakhni'em bi-meheira vi-yameinu…"
(Cf. Siddur ARI Rav Asher, which is gores “oyvei amkha,” although there are difference elsewhere in the berakhah.)

*

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender remembered that in Uman, the nusach of birkhas ha-minim included the phrase “ve-khol ha-risha’h ki-rega’ toveid,” not “ve-khol ha-minim.”
(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 150)

*

Reb Elazar mentioned that Rav Mordechai Sharabi, with whom both he and his father studied Kabbalah, once pointed out that the roshey teivos of the chasimas ha-berakhah “shoveir oyvim u-machniya zeidim” has the same gematria as SHaDaY.

*

Reb Gedaliah once explained that we say “oyvey amkha,” not “oyvekha,” because we cannot recognize the enemies of Hashem; however, the siman is if they are enemies of Klal Yisrael, as indicated by the lashon “oyvey amkha.”
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro, who added that this seems to be based on Rashi, Bamidbar 10:35, s.v. “misanekha,” citing Midrash Tanchuma.)


Al HaTzaddikim

Reb Avraham Sternhartz would say “ve-al chasdekha ha-gadol be-emes nish’anenu.” This is the nusach of the Tsfas community.
(According to Tefillah le-Dovid, this phrase alludes to the Avos: “chasdekha” corresponds to Avraham; “ha-gadol” corresponds to Yitzchak; and “ve-emes” corresponds to Ya’akov; see Likutey Maharich, vol. I, p. 156.)

*

Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender concurred that the nusach of this berakha that was common in Uman includes the phrase be-emes nish’anenu,” not “be-emes u-ve-samim nish’anenu.”
(Si’ach Sarfey Kodesh IV, 150)


Es Tzemach Dovid

Reb Avraham Sternhartz would say “u-metzapim tamid le-yeshu’ah.” This is the nusach of the Tzefas community.
(Heard from Rabbi Noach Cheifetz and Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)

*

This conflicts with the mesorah of Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender, who recalled that in Uman the nusach was "u-metzapim le-yeshu'ah," omitting the word “tamid.”
(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 150)

Shema Koleinu

Reb Avraham's nusach for this berakhah was: "Av ha-Rachaman, shema koleinu, HaShem Elokeinu, chus vi-rachem aleinu, ve-kabel be-rachamim u-ve-ratzon es tefilaseinu, ki E-l shomei’a tefillos ve-sachanunim Atah. U-milfanekha Malkeinu reikam al tishiveinu. Chonenu va-‘anenu u-shema tefilaseinu, ki Atah shomei’a tefillas kol peh, amcha Yisrael be-rachamim..." This is the nusach of the Tsfas community.
(Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar ha-Amidah 19. The words “Av ha-Rachaman, shema koleinu” was also the nusach of the Baal Shem Tov; see Ze'er Zahav on Shulchan ha-Tahor-Komarno, 18:8; Keser Nehorah on Siddur Tefillah Yesharah-Berditchev, loc cit. It was also the nusach of Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, Imrey Pinchos [Bnei Brak 2003] vol. I, Sha’ar Seder ha-Yom 93. Similarly, both Siddur ARI Kol Yaakov and Siddur ARI Rav Asher begin the berakhahAv ha-Rachaman, shema koleinu…” Siddur ARI Kol Yaakov also includes the phrase “chonenu va-anenu u-shema tefilaseinu…” although it omits “amcha Yisrael be-rachamim," which is nusach Ashkenaz. The latter is an alternative nusach that some siddurim append to “shomei’a tefillas kol peh.”)

*

This, too, is the nusach that Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender remembered from Uman.
(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 150)


Retzei

Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender stated that in Uman, the nusach for birkhas “Retzei” was: “u-sefilasam meheirah be-ahavah sekabel be-ratzon…” including the word “meheirah.”
(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 150)

Sim Shalom

Reb Gedaliah included the words “be-rov oz ve-shalom,” as in the standard Nusach Sefard. However, he did not say “yachad,” but only “ki-echad be-ohr panekha…”
(The phrase “be-rov oz ve-shalom” appears in Abudarham, Siddur ha-RaMaK, and old Sefardic siddurim. Rabbi Daniel Rimmer brings it as the nusach of the Arizal in Tefillas Chaim, ad loc.)

*

Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender also stated that this was the nusach in Uman.
(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 150)

Kedushah

Reb Elazar Kenig lifts up his feet slightly on his toes when he recites the declarations “kadosh, kadosh, kadosh…” “baruch kevod HaShem...” and “yimlokh…” (We presume that he follows the custom of his father, but neglected to ask.)
(See Tur, Orach Chaim 125 for further discussion. Sha’ar ha-Kavannos, Shnei Luchos ha-Bris, Minchas Aharon, Ben Ish Chai: Halakhos I, Terumah 4, et al., state that one should raise one’s feet at each declaration, while Mishnas Chassidim states that one should do so only while reciting “kadosh…”)

Birkhas ha-Kohanim

According to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender, the minhag in Uman was that after each of the three sections of Birkhas Kohanim during chazoras ha-shatz, the tzibbur would answer "kein yehi ratzon," not "amen." This was the regional custom.
(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh IV)

*

However, when the Birkhas Kohanim was actually performed by a Kohen, as in Eretz Yisrael, the tzibbur would answer "amen."

*

According to some halakhic opinions, even in chutz la’aretz, where Birkhas Kohanim is not performed daily, if the shaliach tzibur is a Kohen, one should also answer “amen.”
(In general, see Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 127:2; Mishnah Berurah 10-11, ad loc.; Magen Avraham in the name of the BaCH, ad loc.; Mishmeres Shalom [Kaidinov] 10:8; Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom [Munkatch], ad loc.; Likkutei MaHaRiCH I, p. 165.)

*

The minhag of Yerushalayim is to respond "amen," not "kein yehi ratzon." This became the minhag of the Breslev community in Eretz Yisrael long ago, and remains the minhag in both the Yerushalayim and Tsfas communities.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig)

Tachanun

On yahrtzeits of tzaddikim and Gedoley Yisrael, Breslover Chassidim recite Tachanun. This is in contrast to certain other Chassidic groups that omit Tachanun at these times.
(The reason usually given for omitting Tachanun is because a tzaddik ascends to greater heights on his yahrtzeit, thus it is a day of joy in the supernal worlds for him and for all who share a spiritual bond with him. However, this custom is not found in the Shulchan Arukh or Zohar. Other Chassidic communities that recite Tachanun on yahrtzeits of tzaddikim include Chabad and Munkatch.)

*

Reb Gedaliah was fastidious in saying Tachanun except on those days specified in Shulchan Arukh and halakhah.
(Heard from Rabbi Noach Cheifetz)

*

He told his talmidim to say Tachanun even in a shul that omitted Tachanun on the yahrtzeit of a tzaddik.
(Heard from Rabbi Aharon Waxler and Rabbi Moshe Grinberger)

*

When Reb Moshe Grinberger asked him if this might be a zizul to the kavod of the tzaddik, Reb Gedaliah replied, “Absolutely not.” Reb Moshe then asked, “Even the yahrtzeit of the Rebbe Reb Melekh on Khof-Alef Adar?” To this, Reb Gedaliah replied, “It is b’khlal not a zilzul!”
(Heard from Rabbi Moshe Grinberger)

*

The neshamah of Rav Sa'adia Gaon once appeared in a vision to the Rebbe and told him to perform nefilas apayim on his left arm, both during Shacharis and Minchah. Some Breslovers emulate this, while others do not. Still others take an in-between position, leaning on both arms during Shacharis to avoid separating from the tzibbur.
(See Chayey Moharan 448; cf. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 131:1, as discussed in Mishnah Berurah s.k. 4-6, citing ha-GRA; similarly, Chayei Adam 32:33, who adds that if one wears Tefillin during Minchah, he should nevertheless lean on his left arm)

*

Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Rosen, for many years Rosh Yeshiva of the Breslov Yeshiva in Jerusalem, would practice nefilas apayim on both arms during Shacharis. However, Reb Avraham Sternhartz and Reb Gedaliah Kenig did not fall on the left arm at all during Shacharis, because the Rebbe did not communicate this custom to Reb Noson. (It is axiomatic in Reb Gedaliah's thought that whatever Rabbi Nachman told to Reb Noson was a horo'ah for Klal Yisrael. However, what he did not communicate to Reb Noson did not have this implication. Reb Gedaliah received this tradition from Reb Avraham Sternhartz.)
(The minhag of falling on both arms is also mentioned by Rabbi Shalom of Kaidinov, Mishmeres Shalom 12:1, although this was not his personal practice.)

*

In nefilas apayim, some Breslover Chassidim say "Le-Dovid, Eilekha HaShem nafshi esa" (Tehillim 25), according to the nusach of the Arizal. However, most say "HaShem al bi-apkha" (Tehillim 6:2-11), according to Nusach Ashkenaz. The kavanah related to the former entails mesirus nefesh, therefore it is not appropriate for the average person. Reb Gedaliah told his talmidim not to say "Le-Dovid, Eilekha...”
(See Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha'ar ha-Kavannos, Drushei Nefilas Apayim, Drush 2, end; also see Even ha-Shoham, Vol. I, 131, in the commentary Petuchei Chosam re. the ramifications of this danger. A similar position is taken by the Minchas Elazar, Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom [Munkatch] 187; also Minhagey Karlin-Stolin, where the Rebbe follows the practice of the Arizal and the Chassidim do not. This is the case in other communities, as well.)

*

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender recalled that in Uman on Yom Sheini and Yom Chamishi, Breslover Chassidim would recite the long Tachanun according to Nusach Polin (AKA Nusach Sefard). This is the custom in virtually all Breslov communities today.
(Si’ach Sarfey Kodesh IV, 151)