Friday, November 28, 2014

The Power of a "Chassidisheh Vort"

Otzar Nachmani
, Vol. I, sec. 99
By Rabbi Nachman Burstein, zatzal
Translated by Dovid Sears (unedited)

[Rabbi Nachman Burstein relates:] I heard from my friend, the chassid Rabbi Yaakov (“Yankeleh”) Kohen Barzeski, zal, that once he was traveling to Meron with another person (whose name he mentioned, but which I have since forgotten) by way of Tiveria. As they were thirsty, they stopped at a certain kiosk for a drink. The owner of the kiosk stood there with his head uncovered, but when he saw two chassidim approaching, he immediately put on a kippah out of respect for them. He also answered “amen” to their blessings of “shehakol.” After they finished drinking and arose to leave, the proprietor asked them to tell him a “good vort (saying)” that he might find memorable. Reb Yankel said that although he ordinarily has many teachings from the Rebbe at his fingertips, suddenly his mind went blank and he couldn’t think of one thing he could quote! So he raised his eyes toward heaven, asking that he be given some good teaching that might inspire this man. And with the help of heaven, after a second or two, he remembered the Rebbe’s declaration, “If you believe that you can destroy, believe that you can repair [the damage]!” (Likutey Moharan II, 112).  So he repeated this to the man, who was most gratified to hear these wondrous words and thanked him warmly. Then they departed in peace and went their way.

Many years passed. Then they happened to pass through Tiveria again and stopped at the same kiosk for a drink. However, a different fellow waited on them; one who wore a beard and a hat, and received them cordially. They inquired about the previous owner of the kiosk, where he was and what had happened to him, and they were amazed at the answer: “I have been here for many years and no one else has been here.”

As they conversed, the proprietor suddenly remembered these two chassidim, whom he began to recognize. “Maybe you’re the two chassidim who came to me a number of years ago? And I asked them for some good vort that I might enjoy? And one of them told me something fantastic that went straight to my soul—‘if you believe you can destroy, believe that you can repair!’ These words pursued me wherever I went and gave me no rest. Because I thought in my heart, ‘I know that I have done much damage in my life. I have not kept the Torah and mitzvos as a Jew should. How could this ever be remedied?  However, this wondrous rule spoke deeply to me and instilled new hope within me: ‘if it is possible to destroy, it is possible to fix.’ Thus, little by little, my inner transformation began. I started to observe a few mitzvos and stop doing things that were contrary to Judaism. Additionally, I started to attend the synagogue every so often, and to observe Shabbos and the kosher laws, as well as those concerning modest behavior. With G-d’s help, I wanted to fix what I had damaged!

“Today you see me as a God-fearing Jew in all things. My family and I live a life of holiness and purity, observing the mitzvos fastidiously and living a religious life at home and everywhere. Praise to the Creator of the universe who has performed such great kindness with me as to have sent those two emissaries—good emissaries such as you—who enabled me to merit the eternal life of the World to Come!”

When Reb Yankel demonstrated that indeed, he was the one who had told him that vort, the man hugged and kissed him with love for having brought him back to Judaism, so that he was now a proper Jew who had repaired what he had damaged. He thanked him from the depth of his heart and crowned him with many blessings and good wishes, with tears of joy. Thus, they left him again, but now with a happy heart.

Reb Yankel concluded that ever since this wondrous occurrence, he has taken to heart the importance of constantly reviewing teachings from the Rebbe so that he would have them ready whenever need be. As our sages state, “The words of Torah should be honed in your mouth—if someone asks you a question, don’t stammer when you reply!” (Kiddushin 30a).

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Haskamos to Likutey Moharan

Otzar Nachmani
, Vol. I, sec. 92-93
Collected Talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein, zatzal
Translated by Dovid Sears (unedited)

[Reb Nachman Burstein writes:] I heard from Reb Elyah Chaim Rosen, zal, that prior to the first printing of Likutey Moharan, the Rebbe sent Reb Zalman “Der Kleiner” (“the small,” due to his physical stature) to the celebrated leaders of the generation to receive haskamos (approbations) for the holy book. He also had a special mission to the Chozeh of Lublin concerning the secret of the Redemption. Reb Zalman was on the road for about a year, from shortly after Pesach of 5567 (1807) until Pesach of 5568 (1808), approximately.

When he returned from his long journey, Reb Zalman confided to Reb  Noson and Reb Naftoli that he had learned many things that even they didn’t know concerning the secret of the Redemption. And he had obtained many haskamos from the great rabbis and Chassidic leaders. However, the Rebbe, for his own hidden reasons, didn’t want to print them at all. Only five were printed subsequently [i.e., by Reb Noson, following the Rebbe’s passing]: 1) from the Chozeh of Lublin; 2) from the Maggid of Koznitz (author of Avodas Yisrael); 3) from Rav Ephraim Zalman Margolios (author of Beis Ephraim, Yad Ephraim and Matteh Ephraim); 4) from Rav Meir, Av Beis Din of Brod; from Rabbi Zalman Chaim of Zlotchov (author of Orach Chaim). The rest of the haskamos were either lost in the course of time, or burned along with the other manuscripts that the Rebbe ordered to be burned immediately after his death (as mentioned by Reb Noson in Yemei Moharnat).

I heard from Reb Itche Meir Korman that Reb Zalman Der Kleiner used to describe the various facial expressions and emotional reactions of all the great rabbis and tzaddikim, which he had witnessed when they first studied the hand-written manuscript of the Rebbe and the wondrous chiddushim (novel Torah insights) contained therein, each in his own manner. One raised the manuscript toward the heavens and exclaimed, “Hott Rebbe Nachman azoy yung massig gevven azoyne hoykhe toirois vos men zeht nisht azalkhes (Rabbi Nachman grasped at such a young age such lofty teachings as these, the like of which have never been seen)!” Another begged [Reb Zalman] that as soon as the holy book was printed, he should immediately, without delay, send it to him, and he would pay twice the price. For he saw there such lofty and hidden matters, “secrets of secrets,” and wondrous mysteries.

A Few Short Teachings From Rebbe Nachman

Preserved by Rabbi Nachman Burstein, zatzal
Otzar Nachmani, Vol. I, sec. 86-90
Translated by Dovid Sears (unedited)

The Rebbe said: “One who possesses the true, proper da’as [in this sense, higher knowledge or consciousness] can accomplish in serving G-d in a quarter of an hour what another person might need to exert himself intensely to accomplish in seventy years.”

Reb Nachman Burstein adds that he heard this from Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender. He also cross-references a similar teaching from Sichos ha-Ran 174. Additionally, he directs the reader to Likutey Moharan II, 61, with the Parpara’os le-Chokhmah, and Chayei Moharan 468.


The Rebbe said: “To accomplish, one should do so with goodness, not with anger. And if at times one accomplishes something with anger—one could have done much more with goodness!” (Heard from Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender).


The Rebbe said: “Every Jew must strive for the highest level—and not let himself fall, even if he [seems to be] on the lowest level.” (Heard from Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender).

Reb Nachman Burstein cross-references Likutey Moharan I, 6, which discusses being an “expert in ascent” and an “expert in descent.”


The Rebbe said: The first avodah of the day is that a Jew must arise for Tikkun Chatzos (the midnight lament) during the winter, and in the summer, to arise before dawn. As for sleep, he should make his calculations by day [i.e., take a nap, if need be].” (Heard from various Breslover chassidim; also see “Avaneha Barzel”).

Rabbi Nachman Burstein cross-references Sichos ha-Ran 301 and Likutey Moharan I, 54 (end); 149; and L”M II, 67.


The Rebbe said: As soon as a Jew awakens from sleep, he should think about the ultimate goal (takhlis)—that there is another world.”

Rabbi Nachman Burstein cross-references Likutey Moharan I, 54, which calls this “remembering the World to Come.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

“No One Loses With Me”

From Otzar Nachmani Vol. 1, sec. 75
Collected Talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein, zatzal
Translated by Dovid Sears (unedited)
(Reb Nachman Burstein writes in the first person, as if he were speaking. Brackets are mine, quotation marks are his.)

In [Reb Noson’s collected letters] Alim le-Terufah (Warsaw ed. Letter 322), dated Erev Sukkos 5601 / 1841, Reb Noson writes: “With this [in mind], a Jew should travel, whether on a distant journey or a short one, and even when he goes about his home town conducting his business or pursuing his livelihood, such as going to the post office…” – this letter [Reb Nachman Burstein notes] was written to Reb Noson’s son Reb Yitzchak, who managed a post office, as is known – “…he should intend to make a profit in order to give tzedakah [charity]. Additionally, he should have in mind, ‘Who knows? Maybe I will encounter another person with whom I can speak about the purpose of life, and to whom I make communicate the truth of the chiddushim [new insights] of the Torah-revelations of the true tzaddikim of the generation.’ ”

I heard from the chassid Rabbi Hirsch Leib Lippel, zal, that he had heard from one of the Breslover Chassidim in Uman (whose name I have forgotten), that the words of this letter were vividly exemplified by Reb Noson’s grandson, Rabbi “Micheleh” of Tulchin (a son of Rabbi Yitzchak). He too conducted himself in similar fashion; when he walked through the streets to go to work at the post office, he remained bound to the One Above, in fullfillment of the verse, “I have placed G-d before me constantly” [Psalms 16:8]. His thoughts and his speech were constantly occupied with matters of Torah, prayer, faith, trust in G-d, the ultimate goal and “remembrance of the World to Come” [as in Likutey Moharan I, 54]. When he would encounter another Breslover chassid along the way, he would stop to speak words of faith, reverence and encouragement, and to strengthen his friend in avodas Hashem [divine service]. Sometimes this discussion would go on for more than an hour, which was not an uncommon occurrence with him.

(In the letters of his father Rabbi Yitzchak, zal, Letter 8, dated parshas Lekh Lekha, [Reb Yitzchak] writes in the name of his father Reb Noson, zal, that [Reb Noson] once told him, “The main thing is to raise your eyes above during all of your doings … Particularly at the time you walk to the post office, raise your eyes above, and may your entire desire and purpose be for the true good…”)

Reb Hirsch Leib also told how once he was walking down the street and saw in the distance Reb Micheleh on his way to the post office. He knew from past experience that were they to meet, he would have to stop and converse with him for who knows how long—and he would have been very glad to hear [Reb Micheleh’’s] sweet words, according to his holy way. But as it happened, right now he was in a bit of a rush and didn’t have time for this. Therefore, in order to prevent such an encounter, he turned down a back alley that lead to a different street. However, it seems that Reb Micheleh had already recognized him and noticed that he had taken that side-street. So he too changed his usually route and turned down a different alley that led to the same street, and thus they encountered each other. Reb Micheleh greeted him in his sweet way, “Tierer brieder, my dear brother!  Maybe you know how one can become an ehrlicher yid [a devout Jew]? Let’s speak together about what one needs to do to become an ehrlicher yid, the way the holy Rebbe taught us!”

Thus, Reb Micheleh continued to speak with him at length about matters of avodas Hashem, according to the Rebbe’s path. Reb Hirsch Leib remarked that although he was delayed for an hour, nevertheless, he suffered no loss or hardship because of their lengthy conversation. On the contrary, even greater good resulted from this. For Reb Micheleh shared with him wondrous words, truly like a tzaddik. He then saw how the verse was fulfilled in him, “No wrong shall be caused through the tzaddik…” [Proverbs 12:21—which in this context seems to mean “no harm came come about through the tzaddik”; translator].  

(It seems to me that I heard [from Reb Hirsch Leib] that he had an appointment that morning for an important meeting with a certain director of a great enterprise. And this director was greatly delayed that morning, so that all others who had appointments with him were forced to leave, due to other obligations—except for Reb Hirsch Leib who showed up just a little before the director’s arrival. He proved to be the only individual present. Therefore, the director received him right away and favored his request.)

In this vein, there is a saying, “Every delay is for the good.” Particularly since the Rebbe once said, “For my sake, no one ever lost!”  That is, whoever is engaged in something that has a connection to the Rebbe, whether materially or spiritually, doesn’t lose a thing.

Rabbi Nasan Maimon to Speak in Manhattan

Rabbi Nasan Maimon of Jerusalem, representative of the Vaad Olami Breslov and a son-in-law of the pioneer of Breslov outreach in America, Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld, will be speaking on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. 

Location: Bnai Israel    
335 East 77th St (between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave)

Date: Monday, Nov. 24th  
Shiur at 7:30, no charge 
(men only)

Rabbi Maimon will also be available for consultation after the shiur.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

“Adir Ayom vi-Nora”: The Story Behind a Breslov Melody

From Otzar Nachmani, Vol. I, sec. 64
Collected Talks of Rabbi Nachman Burstein, zatzal
Translated by Dovid Sears (unedited)
In honor of the yahrtzeit of my grandfather Yitzchak Yaakov ben Chanokh Zundel, a”h
20 Marcheshvan (niftar 5714 / 1953)

“Adir Ayom vi-Nora”: The Story Behind a Breslov Melody

Our master, Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz (circa 1862-1955), of blessed memory, usually used to teach Lesson 27 (“R’tzitza”) from Likutey Moharan, Part II, during the shaloshudes meal of Shabbos Shirah. At the end of the lesson, the Rebbe cites the verse, “Va-yar batzar lahem bi-sham’o es rinasam … And He looked upon their distress when He heard their cries (rinasam, which can also mean ‘their songs’)” Psalms 106:44)—on which the Rebbe remarks that when there is a harsh heavenly decree on the Jewish people or misfortune befalls us, due to a hostile nation, G-d forbid, it is beneficial to sing a melody of that hostile nation. Reb Avraham would then tell the story of Rabbi Ephraim b’Reb Naftali (circa 1800-1883), of blessed memory, who personally went through such misfortune and saw for himself how singing such a melody saved his life.

After making aliyah from Uman, Reb Ephraim nevertheless used to travel from Eretz Yisrael back to Uman for the annual Breslov Rosh Hashanah gathering, and then return again to Jerusalem. (It is known that he did so nineteen times.) While he was aboard the ship, sitting in a corner engaged in Torah study and prayer, a group of Arabs began to pester him, asking that he join their dancing and sing a melody for them—something with which they could have a good laugh, according to their hearts’ desire. It would be especially entertaining if this elderly Jew, graced with a long white beard and peyos, were to dance and sing for them. This would provide them with an object of laughter and derision well suited to their taste for wildness and folly. However, Reb Ephraim paid no attention to them and simply went on with what he was doing. On the holy Shabbos, while he sang the zemiros, they continued to disturb him, insisting that he sing a melody for them. But he adamantly refused. What did he have to do with these Arabs and their melodies? 

However, when Motza’ei Shabbos arrived and he began to sing the zemiros of Melaveh Malkah, they fell upon him again and would not leave him alone. In their insolence they began to pressure him, and finally started pulling him by the beard and bullying him. He saw that he was in serious trouble, and that they might do him harm—or worse. (Sometimes Arabs would work themselves up into such fervor during their dances that they would pick up their swords and spears and become violent.) Therefore, when he came to the song “Adir Ayom vi-Nora (Mighty One, Tremendous and Wondrous),” he suddenly remembered the Rebbe’s advice and thought to himself, “The time has come to put this into practice!” Since the Arabs were singing many songs, he had a chance to learn one of their melodies, a few parts of which expressed longing and yearning. However, he didn’t understand the words to this melody. So he began to sing it to these Hebrew lyrics. And in their mirth, the Arabs began to sing along with him and dance in front of him, making all sorts of loud and strange sounds, as was their wont. Reb Ephraim too began to cry out and sing, “Hein atah tikvasi, vi-liyeshu’asekha kivisi … behold, You are my hope, and Your deliverance I await! … mi-pachad le-hatzili, nahaleini le-zion kodesh gorali … from terror, save me! Lead me to Zion, my holy destiny!” Thus did he scream with all his might, again and again—“nahaleini le-zion kodesh gorali … Guide me to Zion, my holy destiny!”—according to their melody. He sensed that a certain awe and dread had fallen upon them from his screaming these words; but he continued until his strength was spent. Then he returned to his berth. From then on, they avoided him and never set a finger on him again, until they all disembarked from the ship. He reached his destination in peace, whole in his body, whole in his money, and whole in his Torah, in the merit of the Rebbe’s advice.

In commemoration of this miracle, Reb Ephraim began to sing these lyrics to the Arab melody regularly. Even in Uman, when he went there for Rosh Hashanah, he used to sing it together with Reb Nachman Tulchiner, of blessed memory [who took responsibility for all Rosh Hashanah arrangements after Reb Noson’s passing, and led the Musaf service]; for he always stayed with Reb Nachman Tulchiner. And afterward, the tune was picked up by the Breslover Chassidim.


When Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender repeated this story to me, he added that he too had heard it from [Reb Avraham Sternhartz]; however, he had also heard a different version that attributed the melody to Rabbi Mendele Litvak, of blessed memory. Yet [Reb Avraham Sternhartz] had heard directly from Reb Ephraim b’Reb Naftali that he had taken it from the Arabs, as described above. It is possible that Reb Mendele may have learned it from [Reb Ephraim] or from Reb Nachman Tulchiner, with whom Reb Ephraim had stayed in Uman, and then sang it himself. Those who first heard it from him may have assumed that it was his original composition. Thus, there is no contradiction at all.

In any case, everyone agrees that the song “Adir Ayom vi-Nora” combined with this melody is most wondrous and a delight to the ears. For it contains many passages of passionate feeling, spiritual awakening and profound yearning for G-d. Additionally, I heard from Rabbi Hirsch Leib Lippel, of blessed memory, that many times he practiced hisbodedus in the forest, singing this melody in a loud voice in supplication to G-d. With this melody he would express all of his feelings in Yiddish: his pain and feelings of alienation, due to the Evil One, begging that he be redeemed from the evil trap into which he had fallen. And he also used to sing it on Motza’ei Shabbos Kodesh in the streets of Moscow, with thunderous loud cries.

The chassid, Rabbi Dovid, son of the Rav, Rabbi Yechiel Yuda Schlessinger, of blessed memory, who was the son-in-law of the illustrious Rabbi Velvel Mintzberg, of blessed memory, chose this melody for this zemer above all the melodies that were suggested to him, in order that he could sing it during the Melaveh Malkah meal that he established here in Katamon [a section of Jerusalem], in the shtieblach. He attested that it moved him deeply, imbuing him with thoughts of teshuvah and an outpouring of the heart to G-d. Many times he would sing this melody to himself, even during the week, in order to experience a taste of deveykus and spiritual yearning.

I remember that many years ago I was in chutz la’aretz, in a certain place, for the Melaveh Malkah meal, and they honored me to sing “Adir Ayom.” When I sang for them a small part with sweetness and feeling, I saw how the eyes of many of those present filled with tears, due to the emotional power of this niggun. They asked me about the origin of this wondrous melody, and I told them the whole story, as above.

I mentioned to them that this chassid [Reb Ephraim] had been a dealer in jewlery, precious stones and precious things made of gold. However, due to his righteousness and his Torah scholarship, he was better known as a “tzaddik vi-lamdan,” as well as a God-fearing man and philanthropist. He also developed beautiful and profound chiddushim (novel insights) on the Rebbe’s teachings and authored two holy books: Likutey Even and Tefilas ha-Boker. And when such a chassid garbed with this wondrous melody the awesome words of the song “Adir Ayom vi-Nora”, which was written according to an alphabetical acrostic, and each and every word begs and entreats and cries out to the Holy One, Blessed be He, from the depth of the heart and soul over the personal and collective travail of the Jewish people and the exile of the Shekhinah—and over the coming of our Righteous Redeemer and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and ingathering of the exiles—automatically all the words sing of their own accord and pierce the depths of the soul, and awaken the heart to complete teshuvah and love of G-d, and longing and yearning “to behold the pleasantness of G-d and frequent His palace” (Psalms 27:4). Many of those present asked me at that time to repeat the zemer, again and again, as they were enraptured by the sweetness of the melody. I even requested that they record it on tape, so that they could hear it whenever they wished, but this didn’t come to pass. Blessed be the Merciful One who helped us thus far!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Likutey Moharan Shiur in Flatbush

From Breslov of Flatbush:

Likutey Moharan Shiur

We are excited to announce a new weekly Shiur in Likutey Moharan starting tonight and continuing every Thursday night at 9:00 PM. Shiur will be given by Rabbi Ahron Berlin. Maariv to follow.

All are cordially welcomed and encouraged to attend!

Breslov of Flatbush
1909 New York Ave. 
Brooklyn, NY 11210 
(718) 851-9332 

Melaveh Malka with Rav Baruch Klein

(Click on image to enlage)