Monday, March 18, 2013

Nachal Novea Tsfat Fund: Kimcha D'Pischa

What is Kimcha D'Pischa

Kimcha D'Pischa is the ancient mitzvah among Jews throughout the world to give charity to the poor before Passover for basic holiday needs.

There are those who give and those who receive. If you can give, please help the needy of Tsfat this Passover.

Annual Passover Drive for 500 families: Each aid basket includes chicken, meat, fish, wine, eggs, grape juice, matzah, fresh produce and dry goods,
and distributed to families who live below the poverty line in Tsfat.

Fulfill an important Passover mitzvah in Tsfat this year!
Click here to donate for Kimcha D'Pischa in the Holy City of Tsfat.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Life

From Sichot HaRan 98 (also found in Likutey Moharan I, 184).
Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom (Breslov Research Institute), pp. 228-229

Winter is pregnancy and summer is birth.

The Rebbe then spoke wondrous words, but they were mostly forgotten. He spoke of the summer which was then approaching. This took place in Nisan, shortly before Pesach, on the third day after the bris (circumcision) of the Rebbe’s son, Shlomo Ephriam, of blessed memory (prior to Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5565, March 1805).

The Rebbe then said that in the winter all plants and grasses die. Their strength is dissipated and they are like the dead. But when the summer comes, they awaken and return to life.

It is written (Genesis 24:63), “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field.” The Talmud teaches us that this meditation was prayer (Berakhos 25b).

When summer begins to approach it is very good to meditate in the fields. This is a time when you can pray to G-d with longing and yearning.

Meditation and prayer is SIChah. A bush of the field is a SlaCh (Genesis 2:5). When every bush (SlaCh) of the field begins to return to life and grow, they all yearn to be included
in prayer and meditation (SIChah).

Prayers For the Month of Nisan

Friday, March 8, 2013


Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Nachman’s Stories (Breslov Research Institute) pp. 473-474

God wins battles merely because of the simple folk who recite psalms with simplicity, and not through those who use sophisticated means.

A king once went hunting, and he traveled like a simple man, so that he would have freedom of movement. Suddenly a heavy rain fell, literally like a flood. The ministers scattered in all directions, and the king was in great danger. He searched until he found the house of a villager. The villager invited the king in and offered him some groats. He lit the stove, and let the king sleep on the pallet.

This was very sweet and pleasant for the king. He was so tired and exhausted that it seemed as if he had never had such a pleasurable experience.

Meanwhile, the royal ministers sought the king, until they found him in this house, where they saw the king sleeping. They wanted him to return to the palace with them.

"You did not even attempt to rescue me," said the king. "Each one of you ran to save himself. But this man rescued me. Here I had the sweetest experience. Therefore, he will bring me back in his wagon, in these clothes, and he will sit with me on my throne."

Rabbi Nachman concluded by saying that it is said that before the Messiah comes, there will be flood. [People will be flooded with atheism.] It will not be a flood of water, but of immorality. It will cover all the high mountains (cf. Genesis 7:21), even in the Holy Land, where the original flood did not reach. [There is an opinion in the Talmud (Zevachim 113b) that the flood did not cover the Land of Israel.] But this time, it will come with such strength that the water will splash over the land. This means that it will have an effect even in virtuous hearts.

There will be no way to combat this with sophistication. All the royal ministers will be scattered, and the entire kingdom will not be firm on its foundation. The only ones who will uphold it will be the simple Jews who recite Psalms in simplicity. Therefore, when the Messiah comes, they will be the ones to place the crown on his head.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

“Don’t Forget Me!”

by Dovid Sears

In  Likutey Moharan I, 65, Rebbe Nachman compares reciting the words of prayer to gathering flowers into a bouquet. But as each new word-flower is added, the previous one begs, “Don’t forget me!” Thus, Rebbe Nachman states, the baal tefilah, the person who is praying, must “make echad” (literally, “one”) of them all. He must remember the first letter of the first word even when he has reached the last letter of the last word.

What does this mean? And how are we to accomplish this?

Rebbe Nachman’s conundrum is not unlike a zen koan (although he’s discussing davening, which is a koan of a different color). His call for us to “make echad” out of a sequential, linear process seems to defy common-sense logic, while seeking to wake us up from what the kabbalists call “mochin di-katnus,” or “constricted consciousness.”

Perhaps this teaching may be understood in the light of a medieval prayer manual written by the Spanish kabbalist Rabbi Azriel of Gerona, the main disciple of Rabbi Yitzchak Sagi-Nahor (“Isaac the Blind”), who taught the secrets of the Kabbalah to the illustrious RaMBaN (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman). In his Sod haTefilah (“Secret of Prayer”) (pp. 215-216), Rabbi Azriel states: “One who prays must push aside every hindrance and barrier and restore each word to its ‘nothingness.’ ”

This “nothingness” is not meant in a negative sense, but rather describes the indefinable essence of all manifestation. Read the word as “no-thingness.”

According to Rabbi Azriel, a proper prayer is one in which “we have directed the words to the ‘nothingness of the word.’ ”

Although we walk in the multiplicity of the material world, he explains that we exist on a higher plane as well: “One who ascends from the ‘Form of Forms’ [i.e., manifestation on the lowest plane of existence] to the ‘Root of Roots’ [i.e., the essence of all existence] must gather together the multiplicity—for the Root extends through every form that arises from it at any time. Even when the forms are destroyed, the Root is not destroyed.” 

Note the similarity to Rebbe Nachman’s description of prayer as a gathering of the separate words into “echad.”

This “Root of Roots” is also related to memory, as Rebbe Nachman states in Likutey Moharan I, 54. There, he speaks of “constantly remembering the World to Come (lizkor tamid be-alma de-asi)”—a provocative and characteristically Breslov oxymoron meaning to recall the primordial unity from which all multiplicity and form devolves. That is, the goal of creation restores the “forgotten” sublime reality from which all creation has come forth. Hence, remembering the words of prayer is not an act of remembering in the ordinary sense (which would leave most of us in despair, which Rebbe Nachman severely censures), but a heightened cognizance of their point of origin within that primordial unity.

Thus, in Rebbe Nachman’s view, prayer is both an act of gathering and of spiritual elevation, accomplished by connecting each word to the “Root of Roots.” This is its essential “nothingness”— its point of origin in the dimension that is beyond all form and multiplicity. With this kavanah (intention), one “makes echad” of the words.

This unity is what he calls the “takhlis,” the ultimate goal—which is the Ultimate Reality. As Rebbe Nachman states at the end of Torah 65: “ ‘Do not go to glean in another field…’ (Ruth 2:8)—because all the letters are precious gleanings gathered together from the supernal fields (as explained earlier in the lesson). Each utterance begs the soul not to leave it behind to gather other gleanings. But this is impossible, since one must go and gather more. However, [the verse continues] “…and do not pass from here”—that is, even when you go on to another word, do not pass the first word. This is accomplished by focusing on the Ultimate Reality (takhlis).”

This intentionality during prayer brings about a sort of “cosmic consciousness,” in that the underlying unity of all separate elements is perceived.

As Rebbe Nachman states (Torah 65, section 2): “This is the basic principle: it is necessary to combine the entire prayer into one (echad). In each word that one speaks, all the words of the prayer as a whole should be present. From the beginning of the prayer until its end, everything should be one, so that when one stands at the last word, he will be standing at the first word of the prayer simultaneously. Thus, one will be able to pray the entire prayer, and still not depart from even the first letter.”

Let’s take a closer look at this as it applies to actual practice. Rebbe Nachman’s great-grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov (Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer, 1698-1760), had much to say about prayer. One of his well-known teachings is: “Deveykus (mystical cleaving) means that when one utters a word [of prayer], he draws it out at length—for due to his cleaving, he doesn’t want to part from the word. Therefore, he draws out its pronunciation” (Tzava’as HaRivash 70). 

This description of prayer sounds much like Rebbe Nachman’s teaching about how each word begs, “Don’t forget me!” (although the Baal Shem Tov’s remark about deveykus reflects the standpoint of the speaker). This is consistent with the way Rabbi Nachman describes praying with attentiveness in the same lesson we have been discussing.

Toward the end of section 4, Rebbe Nachman defines praying with kavanah as “hearing the words that you bring forth from your mouth.” He explains that one’s own words are truly the words of the Shekhinah, coming forth from the soul—which is a portion of the Shekhinah. As the Baal Shem Tov similarly taught, “The soul is the life-force. Thus, when it departs, one no longer feels any bodily sensation; this life-force is actually one with the Source of all life and all creatures: the Holy Blessed One” (Degel Machaneh Ephraim, Bechukosai).

The Shekhinah produces the words of prayer, and the words, too, are part of the Shekhinah. If so, how could our words of prayer ever be lost?

Maybe all we need to do, in the midst of saying them, is simply to realize this.  

Andy Statman Trio: Final Four at Charles Street

The Andy Statman Trio
(Andy Statman, Jim Whitney, Larry Eagle)

Our version of March madness - the Final Four shows at Charles Street and then it's goodbye (until May).

Tuesday 5 March @ 9 (the Trio)

Thursday 7 March @ 9 
An Andy & Larry duo evening at Charles Street

Tuesday 12 March and Thursday 14 March @ 9 
plus ...
Andy & Jim at the Jewish Music CafĂ© in Brooklyn with a special guest - Saturday 16 March8:30

the whole schedule's right here
(including April shows in NYC and Chicago with David Grisman)
check out our latest recording Old Brooklyn
Facebook - The Andy Statman Trio
twitter: @rcanipper

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Simply Tsfat Kumzitz to benefit Eizer L'Shabbos

Eizer L'Shabbos Kimcha D'Pischa Campaign

Chap ahrien before Adar is over!

The event, to be held in Yossie Kaufman's home, is to support Eizer LShabbos which provides food packages to poor families in the city of Tsfat. ( Funds are desperately needed now to help the many poor families of Tsfat have food for Pesach.

Date: Tuesday, March 5th

Time: 8:15 PM

Location: Home of Yossie Kaufman

1305 East 22nd Street (L&M)

(for men only)

The Artwork of Esther Zibell

Esther Zibell is a French born artist who presently lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. She is mostly self-taught and has been painting since her childhood. In the eighties, she became observant and dedicated her work to Biblical and Hassidic themes, with a blend of imagination and originality. In 2008-09 she studied the art of print-making in the Art Students League of New York.

The subjects of Zibell’s paintings and prints range from landscapes, to still lifes, to portraits, to biblical and family scenes. There are even a few cosmic visions populated by birds and psychedelic ginkgo leaves. But like all artists, her true subject is her own inner world. That world is charged with empathy and love, a deep Jewish consciousness, closeness to nature, and a joyous connection to womanhood, especially as expressed through portraits of women young and old, wedding scenes, and mothers and children.

Somehow she has preserved the secret wellsprings of innocence with her art, even in her Holocaust paintings and contemplations of aging and loneliness. Her Jewish subjects are richly expressive of her love for the Jewish people, past and present; the otherworldly aura of the Sabbath; and her symbolist conceptions of biblical stories, ever from a woman’s point of view.