Friday, February 26, 2016

The Wondrous Artistry of Bezalel

Painting by Kikuo Saito

Likutey Halakhos, Hil. Kiley Beheimah 3:1
Translated by Dovid Sears (unedited)
In Memory of Harry and Selma Swatsburg

This teaching from Reb Noson (of which we have translated and slightly abridged only the first of eight sections) is based on Likutey Moharan I, 61.

A few mystical concepts central to this lesson and Reb Noson’s related chiddushim (original ideas) are: the constriction of the Infinite Divine Light in the creation of the universe, known as tzimtzum—which is not only one primary event, but is ongoing throughout creation continually; another is din (or the plural, dinim), which can mean both judgement (whether heavenly or earthly) and the metaphysical forces that delimit, determine and give form to the various elements of the spiritual and physical realms; a third is sekhel, which can mean the human mind, but also the “Divine Mind” which conceives creation in all its diversity and animates everything, as in the verse, “How great are Your works, O God! Kulam bi-chokhmah asisahYou have made them all with wisdom” (Psalms 104:24). In kabbalistic contexts, sekhel” usually alludes to the sefiros of chokhmah, binah vi-daas, Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge. The term also alludes to the Divine Reality hidden within every speck of existence. Reb Noson discusses both meanings.

Reb Noson begins by “setting the stage” with these concepts in his preface, and then goes on to discuss Bezalel, the construction of the Mishkan and its vessels, and by implication, human creative activity. Reb Noson’s words are in bold, while I have added a few brief explanatory remarks in standard typeface.

All creative acts (melakhos) in the world are constrictions (tzimtzumim)—and all determining forces (dinim) are related to the intellect (sekhel) that corresponds to each constriction.  For every tzimtzum and din is derived from a particular sekhel, since [according to a fundamental Kabbalistic principal] “everything is clarified in thought” (Zohar II, 254b).

Here sekhel seems to have a double-meaning: the primary meaning is the metaphysical concept of the “Divine thought” that determines each constriction and din, thus to produce a certain manifest reality—in this case a melakhah, or creative act—while the secondary meaning would be the state of mind of the person performing that act. “Everything is clarified in thought” alludes to the Zohar’s metaphysics, which describe the World of Thought, World of Speech and World of Action as being part of a continuum from above to below. The rectification of a fault or disharmony on the lower levels must be completed on the highest level of the World of Thought, for this is its “root.”

All of these “intellects have no power to mitigate (literally, “sweeten) except by receiving from the Sekhel ha-Kollel (“Collective Intellect” or “Universal Mind”).

That is, all manifestations of the Divine plan and purpose within the multiplicity of creation, which are called “intellects,” have no power to temper the dinim, which are the forces that produce separateness and division, except by receiving Divine illumination from the Sekhel ha-Kollel, which is the“Collective Intellect” or “Universal Mind.” In Likutey Moharan I, 61, the lesson on which this teaching from Reb Noson is based, the Sekhel ha-Kollel is identified with Chokhmah Ila’ah, the “Supernal Wisdom” or “Highest Wisdom,” which is the all-encompassing Divine plan and purpose in creationas a whole. All “lower” or more specific wisdoms, related to the countless diverse forces and elements of creation, are offshoots or tributaries of Chokhmah Ila’ah.

The Sekhel ha-Kollel includes all intellects and all constrictions in the universe.  This is the paradigm of the Foundation Stone, the Holy of Holies, which “sweetens” all constrictions and all forces of division and harsh judgments.

Again in Likutey Moharan I, 61, the Rebbe alludes to the principle that the earthly realm corresponds to the heavenly realm. Accordingly, the highest degree of holiness in this world—and the channel for all Divine hashpa’os, or influences—is the Foundation Stone (Even Shesiya) and the Holy of Holies (Kodesh ha-Kadashim) in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This is where the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) enters on Yom Kippur to beseech G-d’s forgiveness for the entire Jewish People. Chazal also describe the Foundation Stone as the source of all blessings, which flow through “underground channels” to “water” the rest of the earth. This is analagous to Chokhmah Ila’ah, which animates and empowers all other wisdoms and “intellects” in the hierarchy of creation.

Section 1:
All labors and creative acts in the world are aspects of the constriction of the Divine Light.

Reb Noson alludes to the concept of the tzimtzum of the Infinite Divine Light (“Ohr ha-Ein Sof”) described by the Arizal in the beginning of the Sefer Eitz Chayyim.  Rebbe Nachman refers to this description in Lesson 61, Lesson 49, and elsewhere in Likutey Moharan.

For this is the essential craft or skill inherent in any given labor: to bring about the specific constriction that will produce the means to accomplish a particular activity. And all constrictions related to the Thirty-Nine Labors require perfection (tikkun) and “sweetening,” thus to spiritually refine them from the “impurity of the Serpent” associated with the sin of Adam and Eve, due to which humanity was afflicted with the Thirty-Nine Curses.

Chazal take the Thirty-Nine Labors entailed by the construction of the Mishkan to represent the paradigm of all creative labor. These are the primary categories of the labors or creative acts scripturally forbidden on Shabbos. The Thirty-Nine Curses (re. this term, see Zohar Chadash, Tikkunim, Vol. II, 91a) were the consequence of Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

These curses account for the strenuous efforts entailed by all Thirty-Nine Labors, as the verse states, “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:19). Therefore, each person should sanctify himself and conduct his business or other occupation or labor with the greatest holiness, for the sake of G-d, thus to spiritually refine all endeavors and creative activities, which are part of the Thirty-Nine Labors, to refine them from the “impurity of the Serpent.” And the primary “sweetening” and refinement of the Thirty-Nine Labors, which are the paradigm of the tzimtzumim, is accomplished through the specific intellect that corresponds to each creative act and tzimtzum.

For each specific creative act contains a certain sekhel. There is no craft or labor that doesn’t entail some form of intellect and wisdom, and this sekhel has its source Above in the holy Divine Intellect.

That is, every craft or labor has its ultimate source in the Divine will and wisdom, which imbue it with existence.

Therefore, it is necessary to perform that creative work or business transaction with great holiness, thus to bind the intellect inherent in the act with its source, namely, the corresponding specific intellect Above. By doing so, one mitigates the tzimtzum, since “no din is sweetened except in its source” (see Rabbi Chaim Vital, Eitz Chaim, Heikhal ha-Ketarim 13:11)—that is, through the related specific intellect that is its supernal source.

This is the paradigm of what the Torah states about Bezalel, who was the head of all artisans engaged in the holy work of the construction of the Mishkan: “And I shall fill him with the Divine spirit, with wisdom (chokhmah), with understanding (binah), and with knowledge (da’as) and all skilled work…” (Exodus 31:3). For Bezalel knew the wisdom, understand and knowledge related to each and every creative labor, as suggested by the Torah’s phrase, “to conceive designs [or ‘thoughts,’ a double-meaning], to work with gold, with silver, and with copper…” (ibid. 31:4). That is, he knew the Divine wisdom and sekhel related to each task. With this, he was able to mitigate the tzimtzum of that labor. For Bezalel knew how to combine the letters through which heaven and earth were created (see Zohar II, 152a); from these letters all things are created, in turn.

From the Ten Divine Utterances by which the universe was created the kabbalists understand that the “letters” of the creative Divine Speech are what animate and delimit all elements of creation—in the spiritual “worlds” (Atzilus / Emanation, Briah / Creation, Yetzirah / Formation) and in this lowest physical world, which is part of the World of Asiyah (“Action”). Bezalel was granted the knowledge of these sublime mysteries, which enabled him to fashion the vessels of the Mishkan.

They comprise the sekhel related to each and every created thing, as the verse attests, “By the word of G-d the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth, all of their hosts” (Psalms 33:6). Each verbal utterance contains wisdom and intellect, for speech reveals knowledge (da’as); as it is written, “From His mouth [come] knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6)—that is, the wisdom and intellect through which a given thing comes into being. As the verse states, “You have made them all with wisdom” (Psalms 104:24).

Bezalel knew the letters through which heaven and earth were created—meaning the letters and intellect related to every constituent thing in the creation of heaven and earth.  All of them are in the category of tzimtzumim, in that G-d constricted each and every element that came into existence with its specific form and appearance. Thus, [Bezalel] engaged in the construction of the Mishkan, because from it is from the Mishkan that the Thirty-Nine Labors [forbidden on Shabbos] are derived (Shabbos 49b). And the Mishkan and the Holy Temple are the aspect of Da’as (Knowledge), which is the aspect of the holy—for the [essence of the] mind (sekhel) is called “holy.”

In a related vein, see Tanya, Chapter 53, citing Zohar II, 83a, that “the Torah comes from Chokhmah Ila’ah.” Since the Ark and Tablets (luchos) were present in the Holy of Holies of the First Temple, the Shekhinah (Divine Presence) was manifest there. However, this was not the case with the Second Temple, which did not contain the Ark and Tablets (luchos), concerning which Chazal state that the Shekhinah was not manifest there (Yoma 9b).

Therein are incorporated all wisdoms and all “intellects,” for they all receive from the Sekhel ha-Kollel, which corresponds to the Holy of Holies and the Foundation Stone (Even Shesiyah). For all constrictions and all creative labors are elicited from the Even Shesiya, which “waters” [“hoshetes,” a homiletical word-play] the world, and from it are elicited all the tzimtzumim related to all creatures and all creative acts in the world.  

Based on Reb Noson’s teaching and the various sources upon which his ideas are based, we see that the essence of all human creativity—In its primary context, which is the holy—is a “spin off” of Divine creativity, namely the “letters of the creation of heaven and earth.” By contemplating these theurgic mysteries, Bezalel, the “head of all artisans,” was able to create the vessels of the Mishkan. Through the sacrifices and various rites of the Mishkan and Holy Temple, these wondrous vessels brought about the spiritual elevation of all levels of creation: domem (the “silent”), tzomeach (the vegetative), chai (animals) and medaber (the “speaker,” i.e., the human) (see Rabbi Chaim Vital, Ta’amei HaMitzvos, Mitzvas Korbanos).

In some small way, we too participate in these tikkunim through our worldly activities, when we perform them according to the Torah and with the requisite kavanah (holy intention). And this principle must extend to the various forms of artistic creativity, if the artist is privileged to find the hidden spiritual core in the midst of the creative enterprise. Then the artist too may participate in the secret of “Bezalel”—“bi-tzel E-l,” which means “in the shadow of the Divine.”

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Online Workshop For Women

Wednesday, March 2 at 9:00 pm (EST)–Workshop Two: You Can Heal Your Intimate Life-The Soul Connection

Presented by the Jewish Women’s Healing Program and, Hosted by

Workshop facilitated by Mrs. Chaya Rivka Zwolinski

Find out more information at
Discounts/scholarships available.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Rabbi Ozer Bergman - February 29

Exciting Judaism welcomes Rabbi Ozer Bergman from Jerusalem on Monday, February 29 at 7:30-9:15:

Topic: Hashem's Hidden Presence During Chaotic and Tumultuous Times --The Times of Esther and Forever After

Suggested Donation $10

At the Townhouse of David & Dina Reis
322 West 75 St, Corner Riverside Drive
New York, NY

Friday, February 5, 2016

Shaar ha-Kollel: The Universal Gate

(Painting by Jim Dine)
By Dovid Sears
L’illui nishmos avi mori: Leib ben Yitzchak Yaakov (yahrtzeit 30 Shvat, R”CH Adar 1)
Imi morasi: Gittel bas Yitzchak (yahrtzeit 5 Adar)
Dodi: Dov Ber ben Yitzchak Yaakov (yahrtzeit 29 Shvat)

When my wife and I lived in Providence, RI, in the early 1980s, we used to have a Shabbos guest who was an elderly Polish-born Holocaust survivor, a wonderful woman who had lived through many trials and troubles, named Chana Berman, a”h. I remember how frustrated she was by the diversity of nusachos (versions of the Siddur) she encountered: Nusach Ashkenaz, Nusach Sfard, “Nusach Ari” (i.e., Chabad), and others. “Why can’t we all daven the same thing?” she asked. “How did this happen?”

I explained that in general, these variations developed because of the galus (exile) of our people to different faraway lands, and the inevitable development of different customs over the generations. But the core elements of the prayers and the basic structure of the prayer services remain the same.

“But why do the Chassidim daven differently?” she persisted. “We’re all Ashkenazim…” That was a harder question to answer. And it is a question that many people still ask, even today.

The answer is not that this was an “ID Card” for an anti-establishment movement, as some contend (although it might have also served that purpose for those who wanted to identify with a special sect). The underlying issue is the quest for a Nusach Ari for Ashkenazim—a “kabbalistically correct” prayer text based on the views of the great Sefardic mystics, in particular Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (known as the holy Ari), but adapted to the Ashkenazic Siddur. What drove this effort was the primacy of the kabbalistic teachings that lay at the core of the Chassidic movement, which sought to bring its own type of mysticism to the masses of Eastern Europe, and ultimately far beyond.

Nusach Ari
Rav Chaim Vital states that each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had its own nusach ha-tefillah and its own heavenly gate through which its prayers would ascend. These correspond to the Twelve Gates mentioned at the end of the Book of Ezekiel. (see Pri Eitz Chaim, Shaar ha-Tefillah, beginning; the main section about this was translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan for his anthology on prayer, A Call to the Infinite, p. 85-87).

Nearly two centuries later, the Maggid of Mezeritch added that if someone didn’t know his tribe, there was a thirteenth gate. In terms of the prayer service, this corresponds to the nusach of the holy Ari, which the Maggid called the “Shaar ha-Kollel (Universal Gate).” And since we no longer know our tribe of origin, it is best to pray according to the nusach of the Ari (Maggid Devarav le-Yaakov 141). The Maggid’s teaching is probably what motivated the Baal ha-Tanya to devote himself to creating a nusach that would reflect that of the Arizal, but as tempered by other considerations, halakhic and kabbalistic.

The Baal ha-Tanya didn't create his siddur in a vacuum. Other Chassidic leaders attempted to do the same, including the Baal Shem Tov (and before him, other Ashkenazic kabbalists such as Rav Noson Adler, Rav Yaakov Koppel, etc.). Thus, most groups have their own variation of Nusach Sefard, which is really their own take on Nusach Ari. 

I suspect that the reason why no Chassidic leader seems to have accepted the nusach of the Arizal "lock, stock and barrel" is partly due to confusions created by the conflicting texts available to them. (In recent years, a ground-breaking study and clarification of Nusach Ari was authored by Rabbi Daniel Rimmer, entitled Tefilas Chaim. So now we know what the Arizal actually davenned.) But in addition, the early Rebbes may have wished to include the nusach of Rav Moshe Cordovero (RaMaK) in the mix. I believe the RaMaK’s Siddur Tefillas Moshe was available in Europe (although that should be ascertained). And as modern scholars have shown, the RaMaK was also a major influence on the Chassidic movement.

The Rebbe stated that there is a complete unity between the kabbalah of the RaMaK and that of the Arizal (Chayei Moharan 364). It seems that this is how all the early Chassidic Rebbes felt, and not only about the RaMaK and the Arizal, but very likely about the many different voices in the Kabbalah. They accepted them all. Pnimiyus ha-Torah, the “inner dimension” of Torah, is by definition the realm of unity; so there was a widespread feeling that any disagreements must be minor. Therefore, different Rebbes made different personal choices when trying to decide which nusach to daven, and as in all tribes, the “Indians” simply followed their “chiefs.” 

Enter Breslov
There is an oral tradition (now printed in Siach Sarfey Kodesh, Vol. I, sec. 119) the Rebbe said that he didn't want to "misch" ("mix," but he means "butt into") the matter of nuschos. According to one version I have heard, he added "If I was born into a family that davenned according to Nusach Ashkenaz, I'd daven Nusach Ashkenaz." (in a similar vein, see Siach Sarfey Kodesh, Vol. II, sec. 90; cf. Rabbi Moshe Sofer’s defense of Nusach Ashkenaz in Teshuvos Chasam Sofer, Orach Chaim no. 16, also translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, loc. cit.).

As an aside, in Chayei Moharan 366, Reb Noson cites a mysterious remark the Rebbe once made about "the stage where we're we're holding in the prayers." Later the Rebbe explained that his teachings follow the order of the prayer service. “So far, we are before Baruch she-Amar, but after Hodu…" This is not the main point, of course, but his comment reflects Nusach Sefard (i.e., Nusach Ari)! 

We don’t have any directives in Breslov about davening according to a specific nusach, (other than what we have heard from Breslov elders about was was customary in the past). The only instruction the Rebbe gave us was that the conclusion of “Yishtabach” should be “Melekh Yachid Chay ha-olamim” (Siach Sarfey Kodesh, Vol. I, sec. 119). (Interestingly, this is the same as the nusach of the conclusion of “Yishtabach” in the Baal ha-Tanya’s Siddur, but it differs from Nusach Ari. I have yet to find an earlier source for this variation. These four words reflect the phraseology of Baruch She-amar, with which the Pesukey de-Zimra begins; also see Rav Avraham Dovid Lavut, Shaar ha-Kollel [Chabad], ad loc.) The Rebbe used the Siddur ha-Ari personally, as did several of his followers, but apparently the nusach found there did not receive any special emphasis.

Yet the term "Shaar ha-Kollel (Universal Gate)" does appear in Breslov teachings. In Likutey Moharan I, Torah 9, the Rebbe also discusses this subject. But there, he relates it to davening with hiskashrus (spiritual attachment) to the tzaddik emes, and not to a specific text at all.

Being the “point of truth among the tzaddikim,” the tzaddik emes personifies the unity of all Jewish souls and indeed, all of creation. The soul of the tzaddik emes is variously described as the neshamah haklalis (universal soul), sekhel hakollel (universal intellect), and mo’ach hakollel (universal mind) (see Likutey Moharan I, 61, II, 72, et al.). Therefore, the tzaddik emes is the Shaar ha-Kollel, whichever Siddur one prefers.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Tzaddikim Are One: Part II

(Drawing by Hyman Bloom)
By Dovid Sears
L’ilui nishmas Shulamis Na’ami bas Gedaliah Aryeh (Sochaczewsky), a”h

After writing the first posting, I had a few more thoughts that I’d like to add here.

Rebbe Nachman said some extreme things about his own teachings, which he understood to be nothing less than heavenly revelations. For example, he deemed the publication of Likutey Moharan to be “the beginning of the Redemption” (Chayei Moharan #346). He urged everyone to buy the book and study it, “even if one had to sell the pillow under his head” to do so (Chayei Moharan #349).

On the other hand, the Rebbe encouraged his followers to study “works by the tzadddikim of recent times, who follow the path of the Baal Shem Tov,” specifically mentioning the Toldos Yaakov Yosef and Likutey Amarim of the Maggid (Chayei Moharan #410, as cited in Part I of this posting). I would assume that the countless Chassidic works published subsequently, down until the present day, would similarly merit his endorsement. He did not take the approach of some other Chassidic masters that their followers should avoid studying Chassidic works from other schools, this being comparable to grazing in “fremder felder (foreign fields).”

The above remarks in Chayei Moharan #410 are probably the reason behind the Tcheriner Rov’s authorship of Leshon Chassidim and Derekh Chassidim.

As for Chabad, when the Baal ha-Tanya (en route to his fateful meeting with Reb Boruch of Medzhibuzh) came to Rebbe Nachman to spend Shabbos with him in Breslov, the Rebbe greeted his honored guest with the term “Sar ha-Elef,” “lord of thousands.” According to Breslov oral tradition, this took place on Erev Shabbos parshas Yisro, when in the weekly Torah portion, Yisro advises Moshe Rabbeinu to appoint a hierarchy of judges, the highest category of which is the “sarei alafim,” “lords of thousands.  It is likely that the teaching Rebbe Nachman delivered in his honored guest’s presence that Shabbos day was published as Likutey Moharan II, 72. (In possible support of this oral tradition, this lesson uniquely invokes the term “bilti gvul,” a common usage of the Baal ha-Tanya, as well as the Zohar’s drush on “melekh assur barehatim,” which similarly appears in the first section of the Tanya.)

Although Chabad and Breslov both seem to make absolute claims, historically the two schools of Chassidus were never at loggerheads (as has been too common in Chassidic history between various groups). In fact, according to Rabbi Yaakov Meir Schechter as cited in “Shivcho shel Tzaddik,” upon seeing a volume of Likutey Halakhos, the Tzemach Tzedek once commented (citing the words of Joseph’s brothers in Genesis 41:11), “Kulanu bnei ish echad nachnu … We’re all sons of one man!”

As is known, Rebbe Nachman greatly praised the telling of stories of tzaddikim, and stated that this is what inspired him as a small boy to strive to become a tzaddik (Sichos ha-RaN #138). In Likutey Moharan I, 234, he expounds on the concept that telling (or hearing) the stories of the tzaddikim (“whatever happened to them”) has the spiritual effect of hamtakas ha-dinim (“sweetening heavenly judgments”), and also “purifying the mind” (see there, especially with the commentary of Rabbi Shmuel Moshe Kramer, recently published as Mayim Amukim, Vol. 1; also cf. Chayei Moharan #479).

And the Rebbe “practiced what he preached,” often telling stories of other tzaddikim to his followers. When Reb Noson first had a private audience with him, the Rebbe told him three stories, one about Rabbi Mordechai of Neshchiz, one about Rabbi  Shneur Zalman of Liadi, and one about Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov. (Kokhvey Ohr, 11, 12, as cited in “Until the Mashiach,” pp. 81-82) (Reb Michel was one of the youngest disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and later, a disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch, until he became a Rebbe in his own right. Reb Michel’s nusach ha-tefillah is preserved in the Siddur Tefilah Yesharah, known as the “Berditchover Siddur,” which some Breslover chassidim use [including a tall, thin shaliach tzibbur at the Uman Ritz]. And Breslover chassidim still sing “Reb Michel Zlotchover’s Deveykus Niggun,” just as we sing niggunim attributed to the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid.)

The Rebbe also loaned Reb Noson his copy of Shivchey ha-Arizal, a collection of wondrous stories about the Arizal and his leading disciple, Rav Chaim Vital. This was to serve as a model for their future relationship (Avaneha Barzel, as cited in “Until the Mashiach,” p. 90).

In addition, Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman preserved a number of stories that the Rebbe told about the Maharsha (Kokhvey Ohr, “Ma’asiyos u-Meshalim mi-Rabbeinu zal,” pp. 30-33). Reb Noson also includes several stories that the Rebbe told about Reb Mendel of Vitebsk  (Chayei Moharan #227 [#101 in the English BRI edition]). No doubt, there were many other such instances that have not been preserved.

To return to the subject of the “tzaddik emes (true tzaddik)” and hiskashrus (binding oneself to the tzaddikim), the Rebbe told his followers that it is beneficial to declare before davenning: “I hereby bind myself to all the tzaddikim of the generation” (Likutey Moharan I, 2:6, 9:4; Sichos ha-Ran #296).[i] The Rebbe explained that this is because the tzaddikim elevate the prayers of the entire Jewish people, conveying each prayer to its proper heavenly gate (Likutey Moharan I, 9:3).

Therefore, it is customary for Breslover Chassidim to recite the following verbal formula before each prayer service, as well as before performing any mitzvah or religious practice (such as immersing in a mikveh, studying Torah, lighting the Chanukah Menorah, etc.):

Hareini mekasher atzmi le-khol ha-tzaddikim amitiyim she-be-doreinu, u-lekhol ha-tzaddikim amitiyim shochnei afar, kedoshim asher ba-aretz hemah, u-be-frat Rabbenu ha-Kadosh, ha-Nachal Novea Mekor Chokhmah, Rebbe Nachman ben Feige—zekhusam yagen aleinu ve-al kol Yisrael, amen.

English translation: “I hereby bind myself to all of the true tzaddikim of our generation, and to all true tzaddikim who rest in the dust, ‘holy ones who are interred in the earth’ (Psalms 16:3), and in particular our holy master, the “flowing brook, source of wisdom” (Proverbs 18:4), Rabbi Nachman ben Feige—may their merits shield us, amen.”

(This precise source of this nusach is unknown, at least to me, but it has been published in numerous Breslover texts over the years. The reference to those who “rest in the dust” is based on Likutey Moharan 65:5.)

Note that “Hareini mekasher” includes the phrase “khol ha-tzaddikim amitiyim she-be-doreinu, u-lekhol ha-tzaddikim amitiyim shochnei afar.” It is not exclusive to Rebbe Nachman, but includes all the tzaddikim, past and present—because, as we have said, the tzaddikim are one.

Indeed, I have been told that Reb Avraham Sternhartz (Kokhav Lev) used to recite a longer nusach that also included the five preeminent tzaddikim whom the Rebbe singled out (Chayei Moharan #279).

We also see that Reb Noson often speaks of “tzaddikim” in the plural in Likutey Halakhos and Likutey Tefillos, and occasionally calls other great figures “tzaddik emes” beside the above-mentioned five. (Offhand, I remember that he says this of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Akiva, although I don’t recall the exact sources in Likutey Halakhos.)

Beyond this, the Rebbe states in Sefer Alef-Beis (Sefer ha-Middos) that one should honor anyone to whom Hashem has granted eminence (Sefer Alef-Beis, “Hisnasus” A-44).

May we be mekushar to all of the tzaddikim amitiyyim, not cause them dishonor even unintentionally, and follow in their holy ways, ad biyas goel tzedek, amen.

[i] Although Breslov is best known for the hiskashrus declaration, such declarations (or kavannos / intentions) are not unheard of in other Chassidic circles. For example, see Rabbi Meshullam Feivish of Zabarazh, Yosher Divrei Emes II, 33; Rabbi Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov, Toras ha-Maggid mi-Zlotchov, Tefillah 3, p. 320; Rabbi Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl, Me’or Einayim, Beshalach [end], in the name of the Baal Shem Tov; ibid. Yismach Lev, Berakhos 2 [end]; Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, Imrei Pinchas [Bnei Brak 2003], Sha’ar Parshiyos u-Moadim, Elul, 424; Rabbi Chaim of Chernowitz, Be’er Mayim Chaim, Vayetzei (s.v. vayachalom); Rabbi Chanokh Henikh of Alesk, Lev Same’ach, Hakdamas ha-Mechaber le-Derekh ha-Tefillah; Rabbi Aryeh Leib Tzintz, Kometz ha-Minchah, Vayikra; Rabbi Yerachmiel Yisrael Yitzchak of Alexander, Yismach Yisrael, Be-ha’alosekha; Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak of Lendov, Emes le-Ya’akov, Bereishis; Rabbi Shaul Brakh of Kashau, Giv’as Shaul, Va-eschanan; Rabbi Eliezer Zusia Portugal of Skulen, Kedushas Eliezer, Tzava’ah 4, Minhagim Tovim; et al.