Thursday, June 27, 2013

22 Tammuz - Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Bender

In honor of the yahrtzeit of
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender, zikhrono levrakha (22 Tammuz), we are posting this excerpt from Rabbi Perets Auerbach’s unpublished English translation of Bezalel Friedman’s biography, Ish Chasidekha (Your Devoted One).

Chapter Four: The First Trip to Uman

The Destruction of the Torah and the Yeshivas

One of the serious outcomes of World War I, when the very foundations of the world shook, was the destruction of the Torah and yeshivas. For four full years the war raged, sowing devastation and destruction far and wide. There was no place—city or countryside, to the ends of the earth—that was not affected, whether a little or a lot, directly or indirectly, by those casualties of the terrifying war, which left millions of corpses on the face of the entire world.

The established bastions of Torah were crushed. The yeshivas in Poland were comprised of students who came from various lands and cities to congregate in one place of Torah. Now, with the outbreak of war, they returned home in order to be close to their worried parents. Even though, as the verse states, “and in rooms, terror…” (Devarim 32:25)—the dread penetrated the walls of each house and dwelled within each person’s heart—nevertheless, it was not as awful as in the street. There “the sword consumed” (ibid.), in the simple meaning of the verse. As a result, the yeshivas and centers of Torah were emptied of their inhabitants, and their gates closed until the wrath passed.

The yeshiva of Makov also began to be emptied of its students and soon disassembled. The war began at the end of the summer of 5674 (1914), and already by the High Holidays the yeshiva was desolate of the students that it had once amassed.

Letters from worried parents came one after another to the students of the yeshiva with urgent requests for them to immediately return home in order to be together with their families. Many parents did not rely on letters and came in person to bring their precious children home with them.

Towards Uman

R. Levy Yitschak did not set his feet towards his home. Due to the influence of his friend R. Itzik’l, his heart was stirred within him to make the decision to hide in Russia and to travel to Uman for Rosh HaShanah.

R. Itzik’l was duty-bound by his father’s command that he not travel to Uman, but rather first return home. But his good friend, R. Levy Yitschak, he urged not to compromise but to travel at any risk, whatever the price.

So he said, and so he did. R. Levy Yitschak packed his belongings, and with quaking footsteps, he abandoned the walls of his beloved yeshiva; who knew if he would ever merit returning to it?

Travel by Lottery

This journey of R. Levy Yitschak to Uman, which changed the direction of his entire life, served as a bridge between two worlds. It was the “final hammer blow” of his joining the Breslover Chasidim, adopting a Chasidut that with time became a part of his very being and essence; he was conected to it with a strong and powerful bond, until his last breath upon the earth.

He had already tasted something of the new way, but this was only from “the end of the spoon.” R. Itzik’l, the genius of Lodz, had already managed to illuminate him with a glimmer of that light, which began to sparkle in his mind. But it was not yet wedged deep in his heart. He was still straddling two doorposts, as he himself noted in midst of his account of this journey.

He left with a clear decision to forge ahead and to reach his destination—to prevail over all of the difficulties that were bound to obstruct his way. He foresaw where this extremely significant journey would take his life. However, it still wasn’t clear to him why he felt so compelled. But it was as if a hidden voice screamed within him, “Hold on to this, don’t let go!”

At times, R. Levy Yitschak would retell the story of this trip with all of its details and fine points, “like one who counts money.” He encountered barriers from the Evil One, who wanted to disconnect him and distance him at all cost from the precious treasure that was destined for him, and toward which he was traveling and drawing closer. Therefore he took any progress he made in this journey as a special bit of Divine Providence, and as a victory for the side of holiness over the opposition.

Many wondrous and mysterious things happened to R. Levy Yitschak on the road. Even after seventy years and more after that trip, he still did not fully grasp its meaning. “Open miracles happened to me,” R. Levy Yitschak would say, “and I want to tell all of the generations that follow me...”

From Above, Looking Afar

We are not exaggerating if we say that this story, with all of its drama, including events that were actually above nature, may be counted among the great awe-inspiring accounts of disciples and their Masters—due to the various obstructions and barriers that impeded their way. The Evil One well knew what contribution R. Levy Yitschak would make to Breslov Chasidut in the course of time, and that his coming close now would be like an arrow in his eyes. Therefore he wanted to prevent him with all of his power, according to what R. Levy Yitschak himself expressed to those that heard him, “If I would have remained in Poland, what would have been left of me? But from above, they look ahead to the future...”

These expressions which R. Levy Yitschak interjected in the midst of the story shed light on the trip’s deep meaning.

The city Makov was close to the Warsaw metropolis. One who wanted to leave it and go to the great world on the other side was forced to first reach Warsaw.

R. Levy Yitschak was a young, delicate lad, who had no experience with the trials of travel. With the bite of the bloody war, he was suddenly uprooted from the warm spiritual climate in which he had spent his last year. He stood at the beginning of the journey that began from the great Warsaw, through which passed a train that proceeded in the direction of the Russian Ukraine. However, it was impossible to predict the end of the journey.

For it is self-understood that in these days of destruction of the world war, when the streets were teeming with soldiers who have not been inculcated with any “extra love” for the Jewish people—any trip, especially for a Jew, would be extremely dangerous. Especially to cross the borders of countries that were in the center of the storm…

“And so,” R. Levy Yitschak recalled, “after I left the yeshiva which was closed with lock and key, I reached Warsaw, together with all the people of the yeshiva, and from there, each person went on his separate way.”

To Warsaw, R. Levy Yitschak remembered, came the father of his friend and comrade, Itzik’l Otsvotsker. It was Itzik’l intent to travel to Uman for Rosh HaShanah. However, as mentioned, his father prevented him. “Come home with me to Lodz,” his father beseeched him.
“But Rosh HaShanah is coming soon,” the son pleaded, “and I want to spend Rosh HaShanah near the holy gravesite!”

“You want to travel to Uman. I won’t stop you. But for now, come home with me, and from Lodz you can continue on to Uman...”  

“Whom You Tested In Travel”[1]

“Stomach pains suddenly attacked me in Warsaw,” R. Levi Yitschak continued, “Pains that took from me the ability to stand on my feet. The suffering got worse and I simply fell on the floor from pain.”
However, his plan to continue the journey was not annulled.

“And He Did Not Recognize His Brother”[2]

Now he found himself in the center of the city of Warsaw, in the glorious backbone of Gelevka Street. “There in Gelevka my brother lived,” he continued his tale. “My brother, my self, my flesh,” R. Levy Yitschak emphasized, as an expression of astonishment and amazement spread across his face. “In my brother’s house I could have rested a bit, until my intense pain passed and I rejuvenated myself. I don’t understand why I acted the way I did. Who pushed me then to keep on traveling, despite all the suffering? At that time, I still wasn’t a fervent chasid

“Soon, I was passing right by my brother’s house. The pain afflicted me greatly, it almost destroyed me, yet I didn’t so much as think of setting foot in his house, not even for a short visit... WHY???”  

Hold On To Yourself!

“I got up and grabbed my heavy bag of belongings and kept going. It is still astonishing in my eyes. Who carried me? Who supported me in those difficult hours? It was as if someone pushed me to continue on my way and not enter, not even for a minute, not to rest in my wealthy brother’s house and catch some sleep under soft blankets...

“And so I turned to the conductor. The pain escalated above my head, but it seemed as if there was no other way.”

He continued on, although he didn’t know why or for what purpose.

Hidden powers supported him. He prevailed and steeled himself and continued—another step, and another step. It was as if he heard the ancient Breslover voice that MoHaRNaT [our master, Rabbi Nasan], may his merits shield us, heard in his dream at the time of his wondrous coming close, when he passed through a chain of pain before he became the “faithful one of the house” and leading disciple of the Rebbe, Rabbi Nachman, may his merits shield us. The more [Rabbi Nasan] tried to go on, the more he was turned back. Then he heard a voice call to him [in his dream]: “Young man, continue to climb—and hold on to yourself!”

The Frantic Crowd

More than a hundred kilometers distance, near the train track, already a long row of crowded people waited to get on the train. A lot of them had been waiting there for many hours, and some for days.

R. Levy Yitschak joined the group of people that gathered at the station, with crowdedness to hard to bear, with commotion dancing in every corner. Pandemonium broke loose because of a report whispered from mouth to ear that this would be the last train to leave Warsaw on its way to the north, in the direction of Russia. No wonder all of the travelers wanted to “grab” a place on that train.

At times the pressure and mounting hysteria were so great that logic demanded that he completely abandon his plan. However, he was strong in his resolve, and by the mercy of Hashem, new energies awakened within him that fortified him and didn’t allow him to give up, but to stand his ground and not falter—in order to reach the holy goal that he had set for himself: the city of Uman. There, he would amass wisdom and Divine knowledge based on the way of our Rebbe, Rabbi Nachman. There, he would begin to become fit, so that one day he would be a worthy vessel and faithful mentor. For upon him rested the burden of passing on the entire spiritual load to the Land of Israel—to establish and build a faithful house to spread the light of the Torah of the great Rebbe whom he was now breaking his feet to reach.

We can imagine the enormous loss to the Breslover Chasidim it would have been if R. Levi Yitschak would have bowed in submission and turned back, due to the awesome pressure that engulfed him as he tried to reach the door of the train which would bring him to Uman... The moment was great and ominous.

Could he withstand it?

“What are You Doing Here and Who are You Here?”

According to the appearance of the mob and the frenzy he had almost already decided that there was no way whatever for him to continue. Would he really be able to push between all of these rough characters, a great portion of whom were soldiers who cast dread on everyone near them?

But he did not give up. He decided to take one step, and another step, and another step further... The pain had still not let up... not only could he not go further, but even standing on his feet was hard for him.

Suddenly a thought occurred to him: “What are you doing here, and who are you here? Who is asking this from you? Turn back and return to the house of your brother who lives close by, who yearns for you. Go and rest your aching bones...”

Thus did R. Levy Yitschak describe his reservations and doubts at that moment. And even though close to seventy-five years already had passed since these events, it was as if he had just experienced it all today.

“I Myself Don’t Know”

“And indeed, why didn’t you go to your brother?” One of the group of listeners couldn’t contain himself, and he threw into the air the obvious question.

“I don’t know myself” answered R. Levy Yitschak without hesitation. And this not-knowing accompanied him throughout his entire life. But he concluded, “You should know, if I had only entered and taken a little rest by my brother, I wouldn’t have made it—he wouldn’t have let me travel.” In his exact words, “If I would have gone to him, I would not have been in Uman.”

And all the listeners well understood the implication of the words: he never would have survived.

R. Levy Yitschak stood and hesitated, thoughts flooded his mind: “What are you doing here, a young lad, alone by himself among myriads of gentiles? How can you push into a crowded, overfull train? Go back! This is not for you, it is not for your abilities!”

But in spite of being drawn after these forlorn thoughts, his mind began to cook up a plan as to how to travel despite all of this. After deeply pondering, it occurred to him that he could circumvent this crowded stop by traveling by trolley to Otvotsk, one stop before Warsaw. There, he thought, it should be possible to catch the train before it entered into the city; there, it would be less packed, the crowd would be lighter, and it would be easier to board the train.

However, when he reached the next stop, more difficulties arose. Many others did the same thing as him, wanting to precede the train. There was a further line of thousands of people by the station. Here too, the chances of getting on the train when it arrived were next to nothing.

On the Last Train

The train arrived. As we have said, this was the last train that ran from Warsaw to the north, in the direction of Russia. It is easy to imagine the great frenzy during those moments when the train entered the station. Into this complex web, we place our young traveler: beside from the holy books in the shtiebl in the city and life in the yeshiva in a group of refined students, his eyes had never seen anything like this.

At times, R. Levy Yitschak would begin to list the succession of miracles that were brought about for him throughout life—including this incredible story of how in the end, he caught the last vehicle before the all of the highways were closed. Had he not caught this train, he would have been left in Warsaw, and it is doubtful if he would have ever reached Uman, since the war was protracted for a number of years.

Inside the train, conditions were worse than outside. It was overfull with people and packed until there was no space. People also snuck onto the roof, it didn’t matter where. When the train stopped, the conductors found no reason to open its doors. Only its windows were fully open, while the mass of travelers pushed to let in some of the fresh air that came through them.

R. Levy Yitschak nonetheless pushed among the multitude that swarmed outside on the windows of the train, not knowing where his feet would take him to.

And the agony... the torment didn’t ease up for a minute... a fearful war raged inside of him... these were the critical moments of decision-making: whether to travel, or to return.

Amidst the pressure, stress and suffering, his thoughts further began to taunt him: “Levy Yitschak, what are you doing here, and who are you here?”

He prayed, “Master of the World! What shall I do now, where shall I travel?”

Twenty million Russian soldiers were sent to the battlefront! Great danger lurked for every Jew. And here a small lad, seventeen years old, tormented in his suffering, filled with as many reservations as the seeds of a pomegranate, all alone among this throng of humanity—how could this one insignificant person manage to get a ticket? How could he possibly prevail?

“From on high, they see far away---” R. Levi Yitschak repeated.

“She gazes at the goings of her household” (Mishlei 31:27).

“Our Rebbe says that when he wants to take someone to himself…”—these words R. Levy Yitschak uttered seventy years after that incident of the train station—“…and indeed, our Rebbe took to himself.”

The Hidden Hand

Suddenly he found himself near the window. Without hesitation, he grabbed his luggage and set it on the other side of the window—without knowing why he was doing so. Then something unbelievable happened: Someone inside grabbed his luggage and took it inside.

R. Levy Yitschak described those astounding, decisive moments: “I pushed among masses of people, until somehow I reached the window of the train. It was open wide. I stuck my hand in... and while my hands were inside, and all of me was outside, I was pulled inside the train!”

To R. Levy Yitschak’s astonishment, his suitcase was swallowed up inside the train, and in its aftermath, he too was brought inside. Someone was holding him with powerful hands. That person didn’t loosen his grip, but dragged him inside the train, right through the open window.

In a moment, he was in.

When he told this part of the story, R. Levy Yitschak would emotionally emphasize that until today he couldn’t conceive or fathom the great miracles that were done with him, already at the beginning of his trip. Out of all of those waiting for the train, among them physically aggressive, strong men, no one but him succeeded in ascending and getting inside through his own efforts, while he stood in his place without force, without doing anything—and he alone, from among all of that great mass, for some reason was dragged into the train.

Similarly, he didn’t know the identity of that wondrous hidden person who reached out his hands to him twice: First, he took his suitcase, and afterward he brought him inside of the train. And the story is especially amazing in that before that person finished pulling his whole body inside, the train already started to move from its place, as if it were waiting only for him to go inside in order to start moving.

“From Heaven, they pulled me in,” concluded R. Levy Yitschak.

[1] Devarim 33:8
[2] Ibid 33:9

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Canfei Nesharim & Jewcology: Plan Ahead!

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Water on Stone

Sichos HaRan 234

Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom (Breslov Research Institute), p. 269

The Rebbe often encouraged people to seclude themselves in meditation and conversation with G-d. He said, “Even if many days and years pass and it seems that you have accomplished nothing with your words, do not abandon it. For every word makes an impression.

“It is written (Job 14:10), ‘Water wears away stone.’ It may seem that water dripping on a stone cannot make any impression. Still, after many years, it can actually make a hole in the stone. We actually see this.

Your heart may be like stone. It may seem that your words of prayer make no impression at all on it. Still, as the days and years pass, your heart of stone will also be penetrated.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Improving the World

Sichos HaRan 239.

Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom (Breslov Research Institute), pp. 374
The Rebbe said, “G-d’s ways are not like those of man.[1] When a man makes a garment, he values it most when it is brand new. As it then becomes worn and damaged, its value is reduced. But G-d began by creating an imperfect world. It is constantly being improved and becomes more precious to G-d.

In each generation, Tzaddikim enhance G-d's work. At first there were the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Moses our teacher…. The world’s value to G-d is constantly enhanced by this. In the end, the Messiah will come and the task will be completed. Only then will the world be absolutely perfect.”

[1] Cf. Pesachim 119a; Bava Basra 88b; Sukkah 46b.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Leaves of Grass

Leaves of Grass
Selected Teachings on Hisbodedus (Secluded Meditation and Prayer)

Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom (Breslov Research Institute), pp. 280, 306-307, 364-364 

Sichos HaRan 227

[Reb Noson writes:]  I found this in a manuscript written by a member of our group:

It is best to seclude yourself and meditate in the meadows outside the city. Go to a grassy field, for the grass will awaken your heart.


Sichos HaRan 144

After the Rebbe returned from Lemberg, he was still very sick with tuberculosis. He would often ride to the outskirts of the city and take walks in the field. This was for his health and for other awesome reasons that only he knew.[1]

During these strolls we heard many wonderful lessons and tales from the Rebbe. It was on one such occasion that we heard the lesson on the verse (Genesis 24:63), “And Isaac went to meditate in the field," appearing in the second part of Likutey Moharan #11.

We had taken the coach out of the city, and stopped in a field to walk. We had descended from the coach and were standing around the Rebbe, who was still sitting there. It was time for the afternoon Minchah prayer, and we were about to begin the service in the field. The Rebbe then revealed the above lesson, saying that when one prays in the field, every blade of grass enters into his prayers.


Sichos HaRan 163

One of the Rebbe's followers from Zlatipolia related the following:

One summer day in Zlatipolia, the Rebbe worshipped very early. He sent his daughter Sarah to call me. When I came to him he suggested that we take a stroll together. We soon left the city and found ourselves walking in a grassy meadow.

The Rebbe spoke. “If you could only be worthy to hear the song of this grass! Each blade sings out to G-d without any ulterior motive, not expecting any reward. It is most wonderful to hear their song and serve G-d in their midst. Es is zehr gut frum tzu zein tzivishen zei. It is very good to be religious among them…”

We walked a bit further and came to a mogila, a small mountain near the city. I asked why we were going there, and the Rebbe told me the secret of that mogila. He asked me to come with him.

The mountain was hollow like a cave, and when we entered it, could not be seen from the outside. As soon as we entered the hollow, the Rebbe took a copy of Shaarey Zion [2] out of his pocket and began reading. He read it page by page, weeping bitterly all the time.

I was standing there holding the Rebbe's coat and was amazed at the extent of his weeping. We stayed there for a very long time. When the Rebbe finished he asked me to go out and see the time. When I looked, the day was almost over and the sun was
beginning to set. The Rebbe had been weeping in prayer for an entire long summer day without stopping.

Sichos HaRan 228, 229
Rabbi Nachman’s Wisom, pp. 364-365

The Rebbe once said: There are certainly many religious people who do not seclude themselves with G-d. But I call them ple’etim — confused and confounded. When the Messiah suddenly comes and calls them, they will be baffled.

When a man wakes up from a restful sleep, his mind is calm and relaxed. This is how we will be when the Messiah comes, totally without quandary or confusion.


The Rebbe once spoke to a youth and encouraged him to seclude himself and converse with G-d in his native language. The Rebbe told him that this is how prayer began. The main form of prayer was an expression of the heart before G-d in each man's native tongue.

Maimonides speaks of this in the beginning of his code on prayer.[3] He states that this was the mam form of prayer in the beginning, before it was formalized by the men of the Great Assembly.[4] It was only then that a formal order of prayer was introduced.

But even according to the Law, the original form is still foremost. Even though we follow the order of prayer ordained by the Great Assembly, the original form is still most beneficial.

Make a habit of praying before G-d from the depths of your heart. Use whatever language you know best. Ask G-d to make you worthy of truly serving Him. This is the essence of prayer.

In many places, we discussed the importance of making this regular practice. This is the way all the Tzaddikim attained their high level. Look well in our words.[5]

[1] See Yemay Moharnat 25b, Chayay Moharan 13a (151). Rabbi Nachman returned from Lemberg on Sunday, 8 Tammuz, 5568 (July 2, 1808). Rabbi Nachman returned home from Ohelov right after Tisha B'Av, a little over a month later. It was during August and September of that year that these lessons were revealed. The first edition of Likutey Moharan was then being printed. Chayay Moharan 38a (#16); Yemey Moharanat 25a.
[2] A collection of kabbalistic prayers compiled by Rabbi Noson Nota Hanover that was favored by many tzaddikim, particularly during the early Chassidic period. See an earlier posting about Shaarey Zion here (DS).
[3] Yad Chazakah, Tefillah 1:2-4.
[4] The Knesses HaGedolah, the great Sanhedrin or supreme legislative court of Ezra the Scribe, existed between 392 and 310 b.c.e. It consisted of 120 elders, among them several prophets. See Avos 1:1; Megilah 17b; Introduction to Yad Chazakah.
[5] See Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Outpouring of the Soul (Breslov Research Institute), which presents a selection of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings about hisbodedus. The Hebrew original, Hishtapkhus HaNefesh, compiled by Rabbi Alter of Teplik, also contains even more material from Reb Noson’s Likutey Halakhos on this subject (DS).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Simply Tsfat: Ashreinu (Video) A Day In The Life Of A Breslover

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Breslov Customs and Practices: Inyanei Shabbos, Part I

(Paiting by Dora Holzhandler)

Inyanei Shabbos, Part I

Compiled and annotated by Dovid Sears and Dovid Zeitlin (work in progress). We are grateful to Rabbi Dovid Shapiro for his ongoing contribution to this project.

This collection of minhagim includes many personal minhagim of Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig, zal, founder of the Tsfas Breslov community, and those of his son Reb Elazar Mordechai Kenig, shlit”a, the community’s mara d’asra today. Other Breslov leaders may differ in their personal minhagim. Those minhagim that do not come from the Rebbe or Reb Noson should not be taken as obligatory, but only as good practices for those who wish to follow them.

Erev Shabbos
On Thursday night, many Breslover Chassidim (among other Chassidim and anshey ma’aseh) are accustomed to learn the commentary of the Ohr ha-Chaim ha-Kadosh. Reb Elazar Kenig is particular to finish the Ohr ha-Chaim on the sedra every week. if he cannot complete it on Thursday night, he usually does so during the course of Shabbos. He once remarked: “The Ohr ha-Chaim ha-Kadosh had enlightened eyes (lechigeh oigen) to perceive what the Torah wants us to know…” Reb Elazar strongly encourages his talmidim to learn Ohr ha-Chaim every week.
(See Imrei Pinchos [Bnei Brak 2003] vol. II, Sha’ar ha-Torah 13-15, where Rabbi Pinchos of Koretz states that studying the Ohr ha-Chaim ha-Kadosh benefits the soul like studying the holy Zohar.)


The Rebbe urged his followers to recite the weekly sedra sh’nayim mikra ve-echad targum on Erev Shabbos specifically. According to one source (although see note below), the Arizal used to do so after chatzos ha-yom (noon). There is an oral tradition that during his later years, Reb Noson would review the sedra on Erev Shabbos in the morning, soon after Shacharis. When questioned about this, he replied, “Sometimes we can’t do everything like the Arizal.
(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh I, 11; II, 535. Reviewing the weekly sedra is mentioned as a hachanah for Shabbos in Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 285. Re. the custom of the Arizal, see Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Shabbos 3, in the name of “chaveirim,” i.e., disciples of the Arizal other than Rabbi Chaim Vital, that he did so after chatzos. Thus, Kitzur Shulchan Arukh, Hilkhos Shabbos 72:11, states that reviewing the sedra after chatzos ha-yom is the “mitzvah min ha-muvchar.” However, in Sha’ar Hanhagos ha-Limud and Sha’ar ha-Kavannos, Inyan Leyl Shishi, Rabbi Chaim Vital explicitly states that the Arizal used to review the sedra in Erev Shabbos in the morning after Shacharis; also cf. Sha’arei Teshuvah, Orach Chaim 285.)


The Rebbe and Reb Noson mention that on Erev Shabbos one should also be diligent to cut one’s fingernails and dispose of them in an appropriate manner. (Optimally this should be done by burning them, or if that is too difficult, by burying them or washing them down the sink.) Kabbalistically, these practices are related to the tikkun of the klippas nogah (“glowing husk,” in which good and evil are commingled).
(Likutey Moharan I, 19:5; Likutey Tefillos 19; cf. Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 260:1; Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha’ar ha-Kavannos, Inyan Rechitzas Panav, 64d.)


Some cut their fingernails from left to right, skipping every other finger. One begins with the right hand, in the order 2-4-1-3-5 (although some begin with the thumb, in the order 1-3-5-2-4). Then one cuts the nails of the left hand from left to right, in the reverse order 4-2-5-3-1. It is customary to avoid cutting the nails of two fingers next to each other because this is how one cuts the fingernails of a niftar prior to the taharah (ritual washing).
(See Abudarham, Hilchos Berakhos, end. However, the Arizal rejected this minhag; see Sha’ar ha-Kavannos, Inyan Rechitzas Panav, 64d. The TaSHBaTZ, cited by the TaZ, Orach Chaim 260, s.k. 2, and Magen Avraham, s.k. 1, states that the MaHaRaM of Rottenburg was not particular about this method of cutting the fingernails, either. Rabbi Yosef Karo’s angelic mentor instructed him not to cut his fingernails and toenails on the same day; see Maggid Mesharim [Jerusalem 1960, p. 163]. However, the Arizal would do so. Even those who cut their fingernails alternately do not cut their toenails in this manner; see Even ha-Shoham II, 260:14, s.k. 16.)


After chatzos ha-yom, one should wash one’s entire body in hot water and immerse in a mikveh in honor of the Shabbos. After immersing in the mikveh, one should don Shabbos clothes. Reb Noson mentions these preparations in Likutey Tefillos.
(Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 260:1; Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha’ar ha-Kavannos, Inyan Leyl Shishi [61d]; ibid., Inyan Tevilas Erev Shabbos [62a], citing Zohar, Terumah 136b; Likutey Tefillos I, 19, 96, et al.)


In Reb Gedaliah Kenig’s home, it was customary to light the Shabbos lights with olive oil, not wax or paraffin candles. This is a common minhag in Eretz Yisrael, particularly in Yerushalayim. Many Sefardim and Chassidim outside of Yerushalayim do so, as well. (This is because olive oil was used for the Menorah in the Beis ha-Mikdash, and according to the kabbalists, the Shabbos lights commemorate those of the Menorah.)


Reb Gedaliah stated that one should light many neiros in honor of Shabbos. Reb Elazar’s wife lights two lights for “shamor ve-zakhor,” plus one light for each their children, and a separate bowl of olive oil containing many wicks. Some old Yerushalayimer families light ten small glass bowls of oil placed in a special wire chandelier suspended over the dining table. Reb Gedaliah also told his talmidim that lighting many neiros in honor of Shabbos would be a source of berakhah for their children.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)


When various tragedies befell our people, rachamana litzlan, Reb Gedaliah would ask his talmidim to light an extra candle in honor of Shabbos. His son, Reb Yitzchak, remembered that when the matzevah of Reb Avraham Sternhartz, zatzal, was defaced, Reb Gedaliah also told everyone to add an extra Shabbos candle as a tikkun for this zilzul chakhomim.


The time when one fixes the wicks for the Shabbos candles is an es ratzon, a time of divine favor. Therefore, while doing so many men pray for their families and for Klal Yisrael. Rabbi Mordekhai Elazar Rubenstein composed a certain prayer that he used to sing while setting up the Shabbos lights.
(Heard from Rabbi Yehoshua Ber Rubenstein)


Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender said in the name of Reb Noson that it Breslover women should pray immediately after reciting the blessing over the Shabbos candles: “Just like this, so may the light of our holy Rebbe shine in all the worlds!” In Yiddish: “Azot zohl der heiligeh Rebbe’s ohr liekhten in alleh olamos!”
(Si’ach Sarfei Kodesh II, 631)


Alternatively, Maryasha, the wife of Reb Noson Sternhartz of Yerushalayim (son of Reb Avraham Sternhartz), used to say: “Yehi ratzon az der heiligeh Rebbe’s licht zohl leikhten oif der gantzeh velt . . . May it be HaShem’s will that the light of our holy Rebbe should light up the entire world!” In 1967, when she was approximately ninety years old, Maryasha told Rabbi Eliezer Berland and Rabbi Aharon Berlin (then in his teens) that she received this nusach from her grandmother Chanah Tzirel, who was Reb Noson’s daughter. Chanah Tzirel used to say this “Yehi ratzon” out loud, aside from any other tefillos she said quietly by the Shabbos candles. This seems to have been because she wanted to impress this upon her children.
(Heard from Rabbi Aharon Berlin)


Maryasha Sternhartz was the daughter of Reb Mottel Shochet of Uman, son-in-law of Reb Noson’s son, Reb Nachman; and her mother was Esther Sheindel, daughter of Reb Noson’s only daughter, Chanah Tzirel. Thus, she was a descendant of Reb Noson from every side of her family. Maryasha’s daughter Rivkah was married to Rabbi Michel Dorfman.
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)


Reb Noson Sternhartz of Yerushalayim, who was a descendant of Reb Noson from two sides of his family, used to boast, “My wife’s yichus is much greater than mine!”
(Heard from Rabbi Aharon Berlin)


Rabbi Mordekhai Elazar Rubenstein of Yerushalayim used to sing a variation of this tefillah to a niggun of his own invention when he prepared the Shabbos candles for his wife. The lyrics were: “Ribbono shel olam, helf –- der ohr fun Shabbos, der ohr fun teshuvah, der ohr fun heiligen Rebb’n, zohl arein leichten in mir, un in alleh kinder, un in gantz Klal Yisrael . . . Master of the Universe, help: may the light of Shabbos, the light of teshuvah, the light of the holy Rebbe shine into me, and into all of my children, and into the entire Jewish people…”
(Heard from Rabbi Yehoshua Ber Rubenstein, who stated that his father used to invent niggunim for all of his ‘avodahs, including the daily prayer services and Tikkun Chatzos. Thus, he would sing the words of Torah and tefillah with fervent emotion for many hours, both day and night.)

Shabbos Foods
Reb Noson Sternhartz, son of Reb Avraham, once related the following anecdote to Rabbi Moshe Bienenstock: His grandmother Chanah Tzirel said that her father, Reb Noson, once entered their little kitchen on Friday, while the women were preparing food for Shabbos. He told them: “You should know that the cooking you do in honor of the Shabbos is comparable to the work that the Kohanim performed to prepare the korbonos in the Beis ha-Mikdosh!”
(Heard from Rabbi Moshe Bienenstock)

Shabbos Clothes
Reb Gedaliah was particular about the custom of the Arizal to refrain from wearing black garments on Shabbos. Therefore, his sons, many of his talmidim, and most members of the Tzefas community wear golden caftans, which is the minhag Yerushalayim; or at shaloshudes (as well as when visiting chutz la’aretz), they wear tisch bekitchehs embroidered with blue, etc.
(Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, Ben Ish Chai: Halakhos II, Lekh Lekha, 18, cites Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha’ar ha-Kavannos, Inyan Rechitzah, 63a-b, that one should wear only white garments on Shabbos. However, the Ben Ish Chai adds that at least one should not wear black. According to the Arizal, the color of the garments one wears on Shabbos in this world determines the color of the spiritual garments that the neshamah will wear in the World of Souls; also cf. Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar ha-Shabbos, ch. 4. The Baal Shem Tov and his followers wore white clothes on Shabbos; e.g. see Shivchei Baal Shem Tov [Rubenstein ed.], 6. Although this custom fell into disuse, a few Chassidic Rebbes continued to do so, even until today; see Shulchan ha-Tahor, Hil. Shabbos 262:8; Zohar Chai, Vayeishev, 182b; Darchei Chaim vi-Shalom [Munkatch], Seder Erev Shabbos, 365; Divrei Torah 141:79; Likutey MaHaRiCH, Hanhagos Erev Shabbos, p. 315. Many Sefardic Kabbalists dress entirely in white on Shabbos. For the source of this custom in the Gemara, see Shabbos 25b, 114a, 119a; Bava Kama 49b, with Tosefos; Kiddushin 73a. The Rebbe discusses white garments in Likutey Moharan I, 29:3.)


Nevertheless, Reb Gedaliah did not tell people to change their levush. Therefore, some talmidim did not emulate their teacher’s mode of dress, but merely avoided wearing black clothing on Shabbos. This was particularly true of his talmidim in America. Moreover, during Reb Gedaliah’s younger years, many Chassidim in Yerushalayim wore tish beketches with some color in them. The custom of wearing entirely black did not become widespread in Yerushalayim until they started importing ready-made Chassidic clothes from America. This is true of dressing entirely in black on weekdays, as well.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)


In former times, most Breslover Chassidim did not wear a shtreimel on Shabbos, probably because of poverty rather than any shittah not to do so. (Reb Noson writes to one of his sons that he plans to buy him a “good shtreimel and a new hat” for his chasunah, even though Reb Noson himself wore only a hat on Shabbos). Another likely reason is that during the 19th century, the Russian government imposed restrictions on Jewish garb, including who was permitted to wear a shtreimel. However, today most Breslover Chassidim wear shtreimlach.
(Re. Reb Noson’s letter, see Alim le-Terufah [Toras Ha-Netzach ed. 2000] no. 402)


Reb Gedaliah was very strict with himself concerning Shabbos clothes, which are an expression of honoring the Shabbos. Once he was caught in the rain on Shabbos but would not remove his shtreimel, even though he was a poor man and the costly shtreimel would be damaged by the rain.
(Heard from Rabbi Chaim Man. Similarly, Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom 366, states that while visiting certain health spas, the Minchas Elazar would not remove his shtreimel even when compelled to leave the premises on Shabbos in order to immerse, and there was reason to be concerned about anti-Semitic gentile neighbors.)


It is a widespread Chassidic custom to wear a zhvulkeh (also called a resh-zhvulkeh), a black satin dress coat, over one’s bekitcheh on Friday night. In Yerushalayim, many Chassidim wear a djebey, a brown satin outer garment, over their golden caftans. Reb Elazar’s custom, which many members of the Tzefas community also follow, is to wear a golden caftan with a long, dark blue suit jacket (rekel), draped over his shoulders. Many Galitzianer and Hungarian Rebbes wear a talis on Friday night (although this was not common practice among Russian Chassidim). All of these customs seem to be variations on the concept that on Shabbos one receives an extra spiritual garment, or “ohr makif.”
(See Siddur ARI/Rav Shabsai, Kavannos Kabbalas Shabbos; Darkei Chaim vi-Shalom [Munkatch] 368; Divrei Torah I, 59; et al.)


Reb Gedaliah wore a gray rekel over his caftan on Shabbos. Reb Dovid Shapiro mentioned that this was once a common custom in Yerushalayim. Certain Sefardic mekubalim still wear gray on Shabbos, too.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro. Cf. Chayei Moharan 525, that the Rebbe once wore a gray zhibitzel, another type of outer garment.)


However, the main point is not to wear black clothing, including one’s outer garment. According to the minhag Yerushalayim, the only times when this is proper is at one’s chasunah and on Yom Kippur, when one wears a black rekel and a kittel or white caftan (see “Chasunah” in Part I and “Yom Kippur” below).
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig)


Reb Gedaliah wore his outer garment draped over his right shoulder, with the left arm uncovered, both by night and by day. This Yerushalayimer minhag is an expression of kavod toward the Tefillin, which we do not wear on Shabbos. Some drape the outer garment over both shoulders (since the sleeves are usually not wide enough to be worn in the usual manner).
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig)


As an expression of kavod Shabbos, Chassidim in general do not remove their jackets at the Shabbos table. Reb Elazar Kenig does not remove his shtreimel, either. However, Reb Elazar has told his talmidim that this is a hiddur that one need not take on until he feels ready to do so. 


Reb Gedaliah wore his light-colored Shabbos caftan all day long, including at the Shaloshudes meal.


Most Breslover women in Yerushalayim and Tsfas wear colored kerchiefs (tichlach) both during the week and on Shabbos. However, some Sefardic Breslover women wear white kerchiefs in honor of the Shabbos. (So do women in certain Hungarian Chassidic communities, such as Toldos Aharon in Yerushalayim.)

Reb Gedaliah was usually lenient about carrying within a public eruv. This evidently reflected his strong belief in heeding the local Beis Din, as well as in both the practical and spiritual advantages of eiruvin. This was also the prevailing attitude toward eiruvin in Yerushalayim, where Reb Gedaliah lived.

The Rebbe was not machmir about Jews saving their property on Shabbos during a fire, Hashem yishmor, and allowed them to retrieve whatever they could according to the lenient opinions mentioned in Shulchan Arukh and Poskim.
(Chayei Moharan 547. These leniencies and their applications are found in Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 334:1-2; Be’er ha-Golah, ad loc., citing Tosefos and Tur, et al.)