Monday, April 29, 2013

Rabbi Tanchum Burton: Parshas Emor

Ben Zoma says, “who is wise? He who learns from each person, as it says, ‘from all of my teachers, I have learned’ (Psalms 119:99). Who is mighty? He who subdues his urge, as it says, “better is one who is slow to anger than a man of physical strength.’ (Proverbs 16:32) Who is wealthy? He who rejoices in his portion, as it says, ‘when you consume the fruit of your own labor, you will rejoice and it will be good for you’ (Psalms 128:2). ‘Rejoice’in this world; ‘it will be good for you’in the world to come. Who is honored? He who honors the creations, as it is says, ‘all those who honor Me shall be honored’ (I Samuel 2:30). (Avos 4:1)

This mishna reveals to us a simple formula for attaining the attributes sought by most of humanity. If there is something “out there” that you want, recognize that in order to attain it, you have to begin by changing yourself.

One would have thought that wisdom is signified by twentyfive years in kollel, an Ivy League diploma, or eighty years of life experience on Earth. According to Ben Zoma, wisdom is an orientation one has, and an ongoing process. Note that the mishna says, “one who learns” in the present tense. One who is wise is not one who has learned, but who is no longer involved in learning. Rather it is one who learns, now. There are people who would like to be become scholars, to become talmidei chachamim. But, what does it mean to “be” a talmid chacham? It means to learnnot to reach a certain plateau and stop there. After all, though the term is reserved for those who have mastered Torah, it literally means, “a wise student”. Furthermore, a wise person is one who learns from everyone, not only the elite, the lettered, or the renowned. Wisdom is to be found everywhere, within everyone.

The word for might in Hebrew is gevurah, which actually means “restraint”. Generally, when we hear the word “might”, we think of physical prowess, a demonstration of power. Here, however, might is defined as the ability to hold back, or, in psychological terms, to delay gratification. One who restrains his yetzer, or his evil urge, is the one who is mighty. As the supporting verse indicates, the yetzer hara most frequently manifests itself as the impulse to anger, and therefore, since we all face the challenge of life’s vicissitudes on a daily basis, we have ample opportunity to exercise our might.

Glancing at the stock charts, one can be overwhelmed at the thought of how much 1 money is out there to be had, and how wide the gulf is between one’s own assets and the massive amount of wealth that is possible. According to our mishna, that is missing the point entirely. Do you desire wealth? Rejoice in what you have. There are people who own mansions of elephantine size, but who do not have joy to fill them with. A palace of twenty rooms of which the residents use at most four is an asset of which only twenty five per cent is enjoyed. On the other hand, you can have someone who has very little, but who regards everything that he or she has as an invaluable gift from G-d, and sees every little bit as a cause for jubilation. Enjoy one hundred per cent of what G-d gives you, and you will be wealthy.

One who wants honor should bestow honor upon others. The conventional wisdom concerning honor is that it is an arrow pointing towards oneself. But our mishna informs us that the opposite is true, as the verse states, “all those who honor Me shall be honored”. Honorability is a disposition, an attitude that enables a person to look upon the world and all of its inhabitants with esteem and reverence. According to Ben Zoma, this is a fulfilment of the verse, “all who honor Me”; honoring the creations is akin to honoring He Who created them. When we take this position, we set in motion a process in which others begin to see the value and meaning of existence, and our own honor is assured. Honorability begets honor. This is particularly relevant to the upcoming celebration of Lag BaOmer, on which we stress the mitzvah of “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, known as the Ba’al HaSulam after his commentary on the Zohar, states that there is a specific reason why Rabbi Akiva identified this mitzvah as “the main rule of the Torah” (Sifra, Kedoshim 45). If every one of us would stop thinking (solely) about ourselves and involved ourselves entirely in the needs of others, we would be taken care of as well. May we be blessed to experience the abundant love, caring and compassion that has yet to be set free in this world.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Secret of Wisdom, Strength, Wealth and Honor

From the Breslov Pirkey Avot (Breslov Research Institute), Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

בֶּן זוֹמָא אוֹמֵר, אֵיזֶהוּ חָכָם, הַלּוֹמֵד מִכָּל אָדָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים קי”ט), מִכָּל מְלַמְּדַי הִשְׂכַּלְתִּי כִּי עֵדְוֹתֶיךָ שִׂיחָה לִּי.
אֵיזֶהוּ גִבּוֹר, הַכּוֹבֵשׁ אֶת יִצְרוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי ט”ז), טוֹב אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם מִגִּבּוֹר וּמשֵׁל בְּרוּחוֹ מִלֹּכֵד עִיר.
אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר הַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים קכ”ח), יְגִיעַ כַּפֶּיךָ כִּי תֹאכֵל אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ. אַשְׁרֶיךָ, בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה. וטוֹב לָךְ, לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא.
אֵיזֶהוּ מְכֻבָּד, הַמְכַבֵּד אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמואל א' ב'), כִּי מְכַבְּדַי אֲכַבֵּד וּבֹזַי יֵקָלוּ:

Ben Zoma said, “Who is wise? He who learns from everyone, as it is written, ‘From all my teachers, I have gained wisdom’ (Psalms 119:99).

“Who is mighty? He who conquers his passions, as it is written, ‘He who is slow to anger is better than a mighty warrior, and he who rules his spirit is better than one who conquers a city’ (Proverbs 16:32).

“Who is wealthy? He who rejoices in his lot, as it is written, ‘When you eat the labor of your hands, 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.

“Who is honored? He who honors others, as it is written, ‘For those who honor Me, I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be accursed’” (I Samuel 2:30).

Digest of Commentaries:

Who is wise? He who learns from everyone. Since he does not stand on his honor but learns from his inferiors, it shows that his desire for knowledge is for the sake of Heaven and not merely a pretext for inflating his self-esteem. Such a person deserves to be called “wise” (Bartenura).

Who is mighty? He who conquers his passions, as it is written, “He who is slow to anger is better than a mighty warrior, and he who rules his spirit is better than one who conquers a city.” The virtue of being “slow to anger” comes from the same inner power needed to wage war against one's natural inclinations and passions. The virtue of “ruling one’s spirit” must be adopted by one who is victorious – such as a king who conquers a city – so that he can overcome his emotions and deal magnanimously with those who rebelled against him (Bartenura).

“When you eat the labor of your hands” – that is, you do not seek to amass wealth in devious ways – “you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.” Indeed, “you shall be happy in this world,” being independent of other people, “and it shall be well with you in the World to Come,” for you will not have succumbed to dishonesty and injustice.

Who is honored? He who honors others. When a person honors others because they too are created in the Divine image, he is essentially honoring God. Therefore God will bestow honor upon him in turn, and the Godly light at the core of his being will shine forth like a bright torch to all (Tiferet Yisrael).


Who is wise? He who learns from everyone

Reb Noson: A true sage can receive wisdom and hints as to how to draw close to God wherever he may be — even in a place of unholiness. In every place some hidden good may be found, in keeping with the verse, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, My Name is great among the nations, and in every place, incense is burned and offered in My Name” (Malachi 1:11).[i] Ordinary individuals are forbidden to endanger themselves by entering these places lest they become trapped, but a tzaddik can find wisdom even there, as Pirkey Avot states, “Who is wise? He who learns from everyone (Likutey Halakhot, Shabbat 6:8).


Reb Noson: Each person’s way of thinking differs from that of his friend, since his character traits and attitudes vary according to the balance of elements that make up his nature. If a certain element is dominant, he will be distinguished by a certain character trait and incline toward a certain point of view, while his friend may possess the opposite trait and opposite point of view.

In holy matters, a person who strives for truth must remain strong in the point of view, good trait or righteous path that he believes to be correct, not allowing others to sway him. He must be “bold as a leopard in serving God (Pirkey Avot 5:20). Nevertheless, he must never be so adamant that he comes to hate or despise his friend, or anyone else who does not share his views. Rather, he should look upon his friend with a good eye and strive to find some virtue in him.

Relating to all people in this way, he will then be able to receive beneficial insights into Divine service from everyone he encounters, as Pirkey Avot states, “Who is wise? He who learns from everyone.” He will not fear that his friend might cause him to lose touch with the truth in his heart. He will remain strong in his conviction and his good path, as is proper, but at the same time he will avoid looking at his friend with disfavor. Rather, his love for his friend who differs with him will remain undiminished. For who knows? Perhaps his friend was compelled to take the point of view that he espoused due to the root of his soul.[ii]

Even if a person sees that his friend has departed from the right path, he must judge him favorably and seek to find in him some good point, as Rebbe Nachman repeatedly urged us to do.

If it is possible to speak with that friend in truth and simplicity, without any egotistic desire to win arguments, but only to guide him to recognize the truth and return to the straight path — how good and pleasant that would be! If not, at least he should not hate him. He should still love him and strive to find the other’s good points, so that he will be able to maintain amiable relations with him. This is what allows the world to endure (Likutey Halakhot, Birkhot HaRe’iyah VeSha’ar Berakhot Pratiyot 5:6).


Who is mighty? He who conquers his passions

Rebbe Nachman: Strength depends primarily on the heart, for one whose heart is strong will not be daunted by anyone or anything. Such a person can accomplish amazing feats, winning battles through the fortitude and might of his heart, fearlessly running into the heat of conflict. This is the meaning of “Who is mighty? He who conquers his passions.” [That is, true strength is primarily an expression of inner resolve rather than physical power.]

This was the case with the strength of Samson, of whom it is written, “The spirit of God began to resound in him in the camp of Dan, between Tzorah and Eshtaol” (Judges 13:25). In those places, God's spirit rested upon Samson and he garbed himself in might. That is, spiritual fortitude and superhuman strength of heart came to him, and he was able to perform deeds of awesome power (Likutey Moharan I, 249).


Reb Noson: Although the arousal for marital relations comes from the aspect of Gevurah, which is the source of all fiery passion, nevertheless, the Other Side need not have any connection to this at all (Zohar I, 186b). On the contrary, for those who have sanctified themselves, marital relations become a form of prayer. All the holiness and higher consciousness that formerly were imprisoned by unholiness become liberated, and the sin of Adam is rectified (Likutey Halakhot, Devarim HaYotzi’im Min HaChai 2:2, abridged).


Who is wealthy? He who rejoices in his lot

Rebbe Nachman: People who are preoccupied in the pursuit of money often die as debtors, with nothing to show for their efforts. Even if they do not die in monetary debt, they live as debtors to their desires. All their days they rush about and exhaust themselves, even risking great danger, just to satisfy their craving for wealth. They are like debtors who never can pay back what they owe, since “no one dies having fulfilled even half of his desire” (Kohelet Rabbah 1:34).

The wealth of such people is not wealth at all, because they derive no pleasure from it. It is impossible for them to elicit Heavenly bounty and sustenance, or to acquire money that may be called wealth – namely, holy wealth, by means of which they could be happy with their lot.

Indeed, this is the essence of wealth, as our Sages state, “Who is wealthy? He who rejoices in his lot.” Only by breaking the desire for money is it possible to experience true happiness (Likutey Moharan I, 23:8, abridged).


Reb Noson: By giving charity, we transform the craving for wealth. We can then cleave to God, the Source of all bounty, and receive sustenance from the source of holiness. Having been freed from a life of constant anxiety due to the pursuit of money, we will rejoice in our lot. We will be content with whatever God has given us and trust in Him always. Just as God blessed us with livelihood or wealth until now, so will He continue to do so into our old age, providing for all our needs in His kindness (Likutey Halakhot, Kiddushin 3:1).


Reb Noson: Poverty is the tikkun for wealth. That is, we rectify our desire for money when we consider ourselves as humble paupers, whatever our circumstances – whether we are actually poor or middle-class or extremely wealthy. This attitude follows the example of King David, who at the height of his power and affluence would constantly say, “Poor and needy am I” (Psalms 109:22).

We all need to understand the profound depths of our poverty in this world. Even a tzaddik cannot fulfill his obligations to God in this world entirely, as it is written, “There is no tzaddik on earth who is so righteous that he does only good and does not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). How much more is this true of the rest of humanity? Our deeds have not earned us even the most meager portion of bread and water. We eat only because God sustains the world in His kindness, as we say in the Grace after Meals, “He gives bread to all flesh, for His kindness is everlasting.” Therefore we are as poor as can be, for we eat what is not ours.

Ironically, when a person takes this truth to heart and understands it clearly, suddenly everything is revealed to be good and he acquires true wealth. As our Sages state, “Who is wealthy? He who rejoices in his lot.” The Sages are speaking about one who rejoices in his portion constantly, knowing that God has given him everything with the greatest kindness, even if it amounts only to the most meager portion of bread and water.

When we live according to this teaching, we can attain true wealth – indeed, all the wealth in the world (cf. Likutey Moharan I, 60:1). This reflects the principle, “He who is small, is great” (Zohar I, 122b [Tosefta]). A person who is small in his own eyes and therefore content with his lot, accepting everything with love and joy, ultimately will merit to attain wealth and greatness. As it is written, “One may appear to be poor, but possess abundant wealth” (Proverbs 13:7), and “He raises up the needy from the dust … to seat them with nobles” (Psalms 113:7-8). Even if he is later granted silver, gold and numerous possessions, he will not succumb to the craving for that which does not belong to him. Even at the height of affluence, he will think of himself as a pauper and rejoice in his lot (Likutey Halakhot, Purim 6:11, abridged).

True Wealth

Reb Noson: When we trust in God and do not worry about what we will eat tomorrow, this is true wealth. As it states, “Who is wealthy? He who rejoices in his lot” (Likutey Halakhot, Har’sha’ah 3:2).


Rebbe Nachman: Money and wealth shorten and consume a person’s days and life. This is the meaning of, “Dust you shall eat all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:14). “Dust” corresponds to money, as in, “Its dust is gold” (Job 28:6). That is, money and wealth will eat away all the days of your life. For money consumes all of a person’s days (Likutey Moharan 23:6).

Furthermore, anger causes a person to lose his wealth. Thus a cycle is initiated: One chases wealth, which leads to anger, and then anger causes him to lose more wealth (Likutey Moharan I, 68).


Reb Noson: One loses the precious days of his life primarily due to the desire for wealth and the burden of earning a living, as we can plainly see, and as Rebbe Nachman states in connection with the verse, “Dust you shall eat all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:14).

Anger causes this lack of sufficient livelihood and the resultant bitter suffering that everyone experiences.[iii] Anger has its origin in the sin of Adam when he ate from the Tree of Knowledge, of which it is written, “The fool’s anger will become known on that very day” (Proverbs 12:16). According to the Midrash, this refers to the moment at which the Divine curse was uttered: “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread.”[iv]

But one who overcomes his anger attains true prosperity, since he rejoices in his lot constantly, without always craving more and more. Thus [having overcome the spiritual deficiency responsible for Adam’s curse,] he is granted actual wealth (Likutey Halakhot, Purim 6:18).


Reb Noson: All lacks come from a deficiency of wisdom. As our Sages observe, “If you have acquired wisdom, what can you lack? And if you lack wisdom, what can you acquire?” (Nedarim 41a). Therefore, it befits those who esteem wisdom to be happy with their lot and find contentment in whatever God has bestowed upon them (based on Likutey Halakhot, Chezkat Metaltelin 3:2).


“Those who honor Me, I will honor”

Reb Noson: Each person possesses a “portion” of the glory that derives from the side of holiness, which is God’s glory.[v] Therefore it is forbidden to disparage anyone; rather, it is necessary to honor everyone. Those who do so are honored by God, as it is written, “Those who honor Me, I will honor.” In this way God’s glory becomes complete (Likutey Halakhot, Orlah 4:19).


[i] Even idol-worshippers recognize God’s ultimate sovereignty; thus, in a sense, their sacrifices are also offered to His name (Rashi, Metzudot, ad loc.). The Sages state that idolaters nevertheless recognize the existence of the Creator, Whom they conceive as the “God of gods” (Menachot 110a). In this vein, the Baal Shem Tov is said to have remarked, “An idol-worshipper has a better chance of eventually receiving a tikkun than an atheist” – evidently because the idol-worshipper errs due to his nature and circumstances but still possesses a degree of faith; this error may be corrected. In rejecting faith altogether, the atheist places himself in a far worse spiritual predicament (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (Tzemach Tzedek), Ohr HaTorah, “NaCH,” Part II, p. 782).
[ii] Different souls are rooted in different “root-souls” or “soul-groups,” which reflect the influence of various combinations of the Ten Sefirot, as discussed in the writings of the Ari. Reb Noson alludes to this concept at the beginning of the present teaching.
[iii] One of the reasons why our souls are sent to this world is for Tikkun HaMidot (character refinement). Many of us have an inclination toward anger and become irritated when things don’t go our way. We even feel justified in getting angry. But if we knew that our anger is the root cause of our suffering, and that Heaven is purposely setting things up in our lives so that we should learn to overcome our anger, we would view all these life circumstances as opportunities to refine ourselves, rather than becoming irate.
[iv] Genesis 3:19; Rashi on Proverbs, loc. cit.
[v] The Hebrew word kavod can mean either “glory” or “honor.” This teaching reflects the concept that God’s glory is the root of creation, in line with the verse, “Everything that I have called by My Name, I have created for My glory” (Isaiah 43:7). Rebbe Nachman discusses this subject in Likutey Moharan II, 12 (“Ayeh”) and elsewhere. Here Reb Noson makes the additional point that by showing honor to another Jew, one affirms the unique purpose for which the entire Jewish people were created: to perceive God’s glory and reveal it to the world. By honoring another person, one actually honors God, for the human being is but a vehicle of God’s glory. The individual who confers honor also becomes a vehicle for God’s glory by facilitating its revelation, in fulfillment of the verse, “Those who honor Me, I will honor.” All other manifestations of honor or glory in the world are “fallen” aspects of the Divine glory, impressed into the service of various confused imaginings rooted in the ego. Showing honor is a tikkun for these fallen aspects of kavod. This leads to the ultimate goal that all humanity and all living creatures will attain this illumination, as it is written, “God’s glory will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together” (Isaiah 40:5).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kestenbaum & Company Auction - May 2

Kestenbaum & Company will conduct an auction of Fine Judaica on May 2 at 3:00 pm at their New York City gallery located at 242 West 30th Street. Viewing will be held from April 28 through May 1.

An online catalog can be viewed here

Monday, April 22, 2013

New Flatbush Shiur - Rav David Nahem

Rav David Nahem, Mara de-Asra of Shaare Ezra, Long Branch, NJ, has started a weekly shiur in Flatbush on "Practical Advice" -- in everyday life and avodas Hashem -- based on Breslov teachings. 

The shiur begins at 8:15, every Wednesday night, at Congregation Yam HaTorah, 1573 East 10th St. (between Aves. O-P).

Rav Nahem has had a close kesher for many years with various Breslov leaders, including Rabbi Michel Dorfman, z"l.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

All for the Sake of Faith

Sichos HaRan 222
Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom (Breslov Research Institute),  p. 159

I heard that the Rebbe was once encouraging a man who was greatly confused about his beliefs. The Rebbe told him, “It is written that all creation only came into being because of people like you. G-d saw that there would be people who would cling to our holy faith, suffering greatly because of the confusion and doubts that constantly plague them. He perceived that they would overcome these doubts and remain strong in their beliefs. It was because of this that G-d brought forth all creation.”

This man was then greatly strengthened and unperturbed whenever he had these confusing thoughts.

The Rebbe said many times that the creation was mainly for the sake of faith. Thus it is written (Psalms 33:4), “All His works are through faith.” 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Three Messengers

Shivachey HaRan 36
Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom (Breslov Research Institute) pp. 101-102

Once a king sent three of his servants to deliver a secret message to another king in a distant land. On the way, they had to pass through lands that were at war with their king.

            The first messenger was clever enough to conceal his purpose completely. He passed through the hostile land without them ever realizing that he was carrying a secret message.

            The second messenger started through the unfriendly country and was discovered. The people realized that he was carrying a secret message and were going to force him to reveal it. But through his wisdom and endurance, he too was able to escape without revealing the message.

            The third messenger was also discovered. Realizing that he too was bearing a secret message, they imprisoned him, and subjected him to all kinds of torture. They tortured him in the cruelest ways possible, but despite his great agony, he refused to tell them anything. He withstood the test without yielding his secret. They finally realized that their tortures were to no avail, and assumed that they were mistaken and he actually had no secret. They let him go, and he passed through their land, delivering his message to the king.

            When they returned, everyone had an opinion as to which of the three deserved the greatest reward. Some said that the first was most deserving, for he acted cleverly enough to hide his secret completely. Others gave the most credit to the second, for he had already been discovered, and still was smart enough to escape. But the king said that the third messenger deserved the greatest reward of them all. He had already been caught in their net. He certainly also wanted to hide his purpose, but he was not successful. After being captured, he underwent every possible torture and torment. If he would have revealed even one secret, he would have received the greatest honors. Still, he withstood the test, revealing nothing. Therefore, his reward is above all the rest.


Rebbe Nachman does not explain his parable. But it seems likely that with it, he means to describe three types of people who confront the Yetzer Hara. Unlike the first two, the third messenger represents the Jew who does not manage to evade or be spared evil desires and confusions, but who must contend with them at great length. He experiences neither the bliss of the great tzaddikim nor the “sweet success” of those who scale the heights the heights in Torah and avodah—yet he remains faithful to the “king” who sent him on his mission. Thus, according to Rebbe Nachman, the simple, religious Jew is the true hero of creation (Dovid Sears).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Humble King

Translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum from “Sipurey Ma’asiyot”

There was a certain king who had a wise man. The king said to the wise man: “There is one king who signs himself as being ‘mighty, great and a man of truth and humility’. As for his being mighty, I know he is mighty because his kingdom is surrounded by the sea and in the sea stands a fleet of warships with cannons, which will not allow anyone to draw near. Inland from the sea is a deep moat that goes around the whole kingdom. To get in, there is only one tiny pathway wide enough for only one man, and there too stand cannons. If someone comes to make war, they fire with the cannons. It is impossible to get near.

“However, as for his signing himself ‘a man of truth and humility’, I don’t know. I therefore want you to bring me a portrait of that king.”

This was because this king had portraits of all the kings, but there was no portrait of that king in any king’s collection. The reason was that he was hidden from everybody. He sat behind a veil, remote from the people of his country.

The wise man went to the country. He realized that he needed to find out the nature of the country. How do you find out the nature of a country? You find it out through the people’s humor. When you want to know something, you should find out how people laugh and joke about it.

There are different kinds of jokes. Sometimes a person may really want to hurt another with words, but when the other takes exception to his words, he says, “I only meant it as a joke”. “Like one who exerts himself to cast firebrands and arrows. and then says, “I am only joking” (Proverbs 26:18-19). There are other times when a person may say something that is truly intended as a lighthearted joke, yet his friend is hurt by his words. Thus there are various different kinds of jokes and humor.

And among all the different kingdoms there is one kingdom that includes all kingdoms. In that kingdom is one city that includes all the cities of the entire kingdom that includes all kingdoms. In that city is one house which includes all the houses of the whole city that includes all the cities of the kingdom that includes all kingdoms. And there is one man who includes everything in that entire house. And there is also someone who produces all the mockery and joking of the kingdom.

The wise man took with him a large sum of money and went there and saw how they were mocking and joking in various ways. From the humor, he understood that the entire kingdom was full of lies from beginning to end. He saw the way they would joke about how people defrauded and deceived others in business, and how the injured party would sue in the lower courts where everything was lies and bribery. He would then go to a higher court, where everything was also lies. They used to put on comedies about all these kinds of things.

Through their humor the sage understood that the entire kingdom was filled with lies and deceptions and that there was no truth anywhere. He did some business in the kingdom, allowing himself to be defrauded in the transaction. He took the case to court, but the court was all lies and bribes. One day he would give them a bribe but the next day they would not recognize him. He went to a higher court, and there too it was all lies. Eventually he came before the Supreme Court, but they too were full of lies and bribery. Finally he came to the king himself.

When he came to the king, he said, “Who are you king over? The whole kingdom is full of lies from beginning to end and there’s no truth in it.”

He began enumerating all the lies in the kingdom. When the king heard his words, he turned his ear to the veil to hear what he was saying. The king was surprised that there was anyone who knew about all the lies in the kingdom.

The ministers of state who heard what he was saying were very angry with him. Yet he went on telling about all the lies in the kingdom.

“It would be proper to say,” declared the wise man, “that the king too is like them—that he loves falsehood just as his kingdom does. But from this I see that you are a man of truth: you are far from them because you cannot stand the falsehood of the country.”

The wise man began to praise the king greatly. But the king was very humble, and “in the place of His greatness, there is His humility” (Megilah 31a). Such is the way of the humble person. The more he is praised and magnified, the smaller and humbler he becomes. Because of the sage’s great praise, extolling and magnifying him, the king reached the utmost humility and smallness until he became literally nothing. He could not contain himself, and he threw aside the veil to see who this wise man was that knew and understood all this.

His face was revealed, and the sage saw it and brought his portrait back to the king.

Friday, April 5, 2013

“G-d’s Glory Cries Out From All Things”

Painting by Helen Frankenthaler

From “Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom” (Sichot HaRan) 52
Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

It is written (Isaiah 6:3), “All the earth is filled with His glory.”

G-d’s glory cries out from all things.

The stories of all nations ring with G-d’s glory. This is the meaning of the verse (Psalms 96:3), “Let the nations tell of His glory.” It is even reflected in their tales.

G-d’s glory cries out, calling you to come close to Him. For G-d wants you with all His love and mercy.

Sometimes your prayers become like flames. The words flow from your lips with burning devotion, touching your deepest emotions. At this time G-d’s own light is inside you, beckoning you to draw near.

Your deep feelings are a spark of G-d’s own essence. It is written (Deuteronomy 10:21), “He is your praise, He is your G-d.” G-d Himself is your praise and prayer.

Sometimes you can literally pray before G-d. When G-d withdraws and is far off, you must still pray to Him.

It is written (Psalms 55:23), “Cast your burden upon G-d.” You must literally cast your prayers, throwing them toward G-d from afar.

The Tikuney Zohar (Tikkun 21, 61b) states, “Happy is the man who knows how to cast arrows.” These are the prayers that must be cast toward G-d.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


From “Breslov Eikh Shehu: Breslov the Way It Is”
Customs and Practices, Past and Present
Work-in-progress by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

We are posting this information due to a recent email request. However, this should be understood in a historical and regional context. In America, the zmanim of Rav Moshe Feinstein are widely accepted, including by many Breslover chassidim. Please consult a Rov (halakhic authority) before accepting any of these shittos in practice.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Bender stated that there was “only one zman kriyas Shema” followed by Breslover Chassidim in the Ukraine: that of the Magen Avraham.
(Heard from Rabbi Meir Wasilski and Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski)


When Rabbi Moshe Yaakov Rosen discussed with Reb Levi Yitzchok which zmanim should be followed by the then newly-formed Breslov shul in Monsey, NY, the latter said emphatically, “We only follow the shittah of the Magen Avraham.” When questioned further, he added, “The GRA’s zman never reached us in the Ukraine.”
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski, who also participated in this conversation)


Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn also heard this many times from Reb Levi Yitzchok, and added that this is the prevailing shittah in Eretz Yisrael today.


Historically, most inhabitants of Yerushalayim followed the shittah of the Magen Avraham, and Rav Yechiel Michel Tukatzinsky’s lu’ach (and subsequently his son Rav Nisan Tukatzinsky’s lu’ach) was arranged accordingly.
(Heard from Rabbi Chaim Kramer)


Rav Tukatzinsky’s lu’ach determined many hanhagos for Yerushalayim’s Breslover community. For example, concerning when to say or omit “Av HaRachamim” on Shabbos, etc., most people followed that lu’ach.
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)


Rav Tukatzinsky’s lu’ach still hangs on the wall of the Breslover Shul in Me’ah She’arim, and is consulted for virtually all zmanim and other hanhagos of the kehillah.
(Heard from Rabbi Mordekhai [Motte] Frank)


Rabbi Nochum Yitzchak Frank introduced the exactitude concerning zmanim to the Yerushalayimer Breslov kehillah. His family descended from the talmidei ha-GRA, who placed great emphasis on such precision. However, this attitude was not shared by Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender, or Breslover Chassidim from the Ukraine.
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski and Rabbi Mordekhai [Motte] Frank)


Rabbi Shmuel Breines, a central figure in the Borough Park Breslov Shtiebel, once asked Rabbi Elyah Chaim Rosen, Rosh Yeshivah of the Breslov Yeshivah in Yerushalayim, about which zman kriyas Shema we should follow—i.e., if we should follow the zman of the Magen Avraham. He answered: “The Baal haTanya wasn’t a posek? The Vilna Gaon wasn’t a posek? One could follow them also. The only chumros we have in Breslov are concerning loshon hora and shemiras habris. The main things are Torah, tefillah, hisbodedus, etc.”
(Heard from Rabbi Shmuel Breines)


Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender stated that Breslover Chassidim followed Rabbenu Tam’s zman for tzes ha-kokhavim, and that in the Ukraine at some times of the year this could be as long as 90 minutes after sh’kiah.
(Heard from Rabbi Meir Wasilski. Rabbi Yitzchak Tchenagel of Tzefas similarly heard from Reb Levi Yitzchak that they followed Rabbenu Tam’s zman.)


Rabbi Shlomo Meyer of Lakewood, NJ, also heard that the prevailing zman for tzes ha-kokhavim was that of Rabbenu Tam.


Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski pointed out that Rabbenu Tam’s zman was calculated according to the ofek (i.e., latitude, as determined by the horizon); therefore it could vary seasonally from a little more than 50 minutes to well over 90 minutes. This is borne out by the Lodz lu’ach published before World War II. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender attested to this, as well. Thus, shittas Rabbenu Tam cannot be simply defined as 72 minutes without qualification.


Rabbi Zalman Naftalis heard from Gedolei Breslov that the concept of sh’kiah for Minchah was virtually not mentioned in the Ukraine, because the bein ha-shemashos period was so long in that region. Therefore, the precise time of sh’kiah was not readily apparent. Reb Zalman felt that the contemporary Breslover zehirus about davening Minchah before the sh’kiah originated in Yerushalayim in more recent times.


However, Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski disagreed with those who say that sh’kiah was not mentioned in the Ukraine; Breslover Chassidim were careful to daven Minchah before the sh’kiah. However, they were less precise about defining the minute of sh’kiah, and in general the approach to zmanim was looser than in Yerushalayim.