From “Breslov Eikh She-hu: Breslov the Way It Is: Customs and Practices, Past and Present”
By Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears (work-in-progress). We are also grateful to Rabbi Dovid Shapiro of Yerushalayim for his help with this project. (Three “Dovid”s are a “chut hameshulosh.”)
We have already posted something about the daily study of Shulchan Arukh, which the Rebbe so greatly stressed (here). This posting will address the other daily limudim one should also try to accomplish, according to one’s ability and time limitations.
The Rebbe encouraged his followers to learn Gemara daily bi-bekiyus, explaining that through repeated study, one's questions and difficulties would eventually clear up by themselves. He himself finished the entire Shas, Shulchan Arukh, Midrash Rabbah, Zohar, Tikkunei Zohar, Eitz Chaim of the Arizal, and numerous other works every year, and still found enough time to practice hisbodedus, write his many seforim, counsel his disciples, etc. He also spent a certain amount of time everyday studying the Gemara be-iyyun, in depth.
(Sichos ha-Ran 76; cf. Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha'ar Ru'ach ha-Kodesh, 11b; Sha'ar ha-Mitzvos, Va-eschanan, 33a)
The Rebbe taught that learning Torah she-B'al Peh at night is a tikkun for hearing unholy songs or songs from an immoral person by day.
(Likkutei Moharan I, 3)
Reb Gedaliah Kenig writes in the name of his mentor, Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz, in one of his letters: “There used to be a great principle among AnaSH (“men of our circle,” i.e., Breslover Chassidim), from the small to the great, to examine themselves individually to ascertain the extent of their powers [of understanding], without any self-deception. Each would strenuously exert himself to ascertain his abilities and his ‘place’—which areas of Torah study it was appropriate for him to hear and to comprehend, and how intensively he was capable of delving into them. Thus he would strengthen himself all the more, and his chaveirim would help him and enable him to stand on the truth.
“For example, the daily study of Gemara and Poskim—this was one of the fixed tasks in divine service of AnaSh. This may be inferred from Reb Noson’s letters, as published in Alim leTerufah, Letter 166; see there. It was also a customary saying of my grandfather, the holy rabbi and true chassid, the Rav of Tcherin [Rabbi Nachman Goldstein, who was Reb Avraham Sternhartz’s maternal grandfather], zikhrono liverakha: ‘A Jew must learn at least a blatt Gemara every day. If not, in the course of time he’ll become a total am haaretz!’
“However, not everyone is the same when it comes to the study of Gemara. Each person can only learn according to his strength and degree of understanding. So there were some who studied one daf simply, with the commentary of Rashi; if Hashem graced them with greater intellectual powers, they would learn the Gemara be-iyyun, with the commentary of Tosefos and Rishonim, etc. And the same would apply to all other areas of Torah study.
(Shaarey Tzaddik, Vol. 4, Letter 106 [p. 109])
After quoting this remark of the Tcheriner Rov as passed down by Reb Avraham Sternhartz, Rabbi Elazar Kenig once added, “Nevertheless, if one does not have enough time to learn an entire blatt, he should learn one amud. If this is too difficult, he should learn Mishnayos or Eyn Ya'akov, however much or little. These limudim are also part of Torah She-B’al Peh.”
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig)
For a number of years, Reb Elazar Kenig has participated in the Daf Yomi program and has strongly encouraged all those who can follow this seder ha-limud to do so. There are several Daf Yomi shi'urim in the Tzefas Breslov community. In addition, Reb Elazar has had regular sedorim in the Midrash and Zohar since his youth, and encourages his talmidim to do the same.
Limud Sifrei Rabbenu
One should study the works of the Rebbe and/or Reb Noson every day, whether a little or a lot. The Rebbe said that ideally one should have two sedorim in Likkutei Moharan, one be-iyyun, and one bi-bekiyus. He also stated that one who studies his works diligently can become pure and holy, and will become worthy of perceiving their inner depths.
(Chayei Moharan 346, 347; Kokhvei Ohr, Sichos vi-Sippurim 12, 13; Parpara’os le-Chokhmah, Hakdamah)
The Rebbe also urged us to choose one Torah lesson and "live with it" for two or three months, using it as a springboard for introspection and spiritual work.
(Sichos ha-Ran 297)
This entails studying Reb Noson's chiddushim in Likkutei Halakhos and his prayers in Likkutei Tefillos, as related to a given discourse in Likkutei Moharan. One should also study other related texts, such as Parpara'os le-Chokhmah, Yekara de-Shabbata, and Zimras Ha'aretz of the Tcheriner Rov, Mei ha-Nachal of Reb Alter Tepliker, Bi'ur ha-Likkutim of Reb Avraham ben Nachman, etc.
(Rabbi Chaim Kramer presents a digest of the traditional Breslov commentaries in the English Likkutei Moharan series published by the Breslov Research Institute. Numerous other commentaries and shiurim tapes are available today in Hebrew, Yiddish, and other languages.)
Reb Elazar Kenig has often pointed out that Breslover Chassidim of old would "live" with the Rebbe's Torah lessons in an all-encompassing way. As the Rebbe states in his letter from Lemberg to his Chassidim: "Zikh'ru Toras Moshe . . . Remember the Torah of Moses" - meaning that his teachings should illuminate and inform all of the 613 mitzvos of "Toras Moshe," as well as the ordinary activities of daily life, including eating, sleeping, and the most mundane things. As Breslover Chassidim, this should be our goal, as well.
Reb Gedaliah often used to say, “Likkutei Halakhos is a Gan Eden!”
(Heard from Rabbi Noach Cheifetz and Rabbi Dovid Zeitlin)
Reb Gedaliah also used to say in the name of Reb Avraham, “Likkutei Halakhos is halakhah le-ma’aseh for a Breslover Chassid.”
(Heard from Rabbi Shmuel Tukatzinsky and Rabbi Chaim Man)
That is, Reb Gedaliah held that whenever Reb Noson mentions a particular custom or nusach – or in rare cases, a shittah in halakhah – this is the custom or nusach or shittah that we should follow. Several examples he gives in one of his letters are: to tie one’s tzitzis with chulyos; not to cease mentioning “geshem” until Minchah, after the Shaliach Tzibbur has recited “Tal” in the chazoras ha-ShaTZ of Musaf (unlike many Nusach Sfard kehillos where it is announced before the Musaf amidah); to recite “Adon Olam” at both the beginning and end of Shacharis (i.e., after the conclusion of “Aleinu”).
(See Shaarey Tzaddik, Vol. 4, Letter 104, sec. 4 [pp. 97-98], which lists the sources for these inyanim in Likutey Halakhos)
The Rebbe stated that studying the Zohar is extremely beneficial. “By studying the Zohar, you can attain enthusiasm for all of your sacred studies. Even the language of the Zohar can motivate you to serve Hashem.”
(Sichos ha-Ran 108)
In light of this, Reb Gedaliah encouraged his talmidim to read at least one page from the Zohar a day. In the Breslov Kollel in Tzefas, there is also a daily shiur in the Zohar.
Rabbi Osher Zelig Margolius, one of the preeminent Chassidic mekubalim of his generation, was extremely taken with Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz and showed him great deference. One he was perplexed by a cryptic passage in the Zohar, and in the middle of the night, he went to consult Reb Avraham, who resolved the difficulty.
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn, who heard this from Rabbi Shmuel Shapiro)
The Rebbe encouraged his followers to study the works of the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye, the Maggid of Mezeritch, and their disciples, as well as other sifrei mussar and kabbalistic works, such as Reishis Chokhmah. He once recommended Mesilas Yesharim of the RaMCHaL to some new mekurovim, as well.
(See Sichot ha-Ran 40; Chayei Moharan 407, 410; Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Avaneha Barzel, cited in Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh I, 236)
In this spirit, the Rav of Tcherin compiled a classic two-volume anthology of Chassidic teachings on various themes: Leshon Chassidim from the talmidei ha-Baal Shem Tov, and Derekh Chassidim from the talmidei ha-Maggid. Reb Avraham Sternhartz once remarked that his grandfather's purpose in compiling these holy texts was to prevent the Breslover Chassidim from forgetting the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.
(Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh III, 373)
Shortly after Shavuos 5765 / 2005, Reb Elazar began a weekly shiur in these works for members of the Tzefas community. After his return to America, his brother Rabbi Ephraim Kenig continued to give these shiurim. In previous years, Reb Elazar also gave shiurim in the mussar seforim of the tzaddikim of Tzefas, such as Rav Moshe Cordovero's Tomer Devorah, Rav Eliezer Azkari’s Sefer Charedim, and Rav Chaim Vital's Sha'arei Kedushah.
At a time when certain defamatory statements were made against the derekh ha-Baal Shem Tov and later against the Rebbe, rachmana letzlan, Reb Elazar urged everyone in his kehillah to increase in studying the works of the Baal Shem Tov and his talmidim as a tikkun for this zilzul chakhomim ve-tzaddikim.