Friday, July 28, 2023

Breslov Center Archive

After more than twenty-five years, the Breslov Center of NY is no longer active, having been superseded by several other Breslov outreach and educational programs. However, we are leaving this website online as an archive of translations and teachings on the topics listed on the sidebar. We hope these writings will continue to benefit anyone who wishes to explore Breslov.

Monday, July 17, 2023

A Prayer for Moshiach

By Rabbi Noson Sternhartz
Likutey Tefillos I, 142
Translated by Dovid Sears, “Entering the Light” (Breslov Research Institute)

Our God and God of our fathers: have mercy upon us, and confer merit upon us, and speedily send us our righteous Moshiach. He will fix this broken world, as well as all of the worlds from the highest to the lowest, for they all depend upon this lowest World of Action (Olam ha-Asiyah). Have pity on him and on us, and send him speedily and in peace, that he may bring everything to perfection, with the most awesome and wondrous tikkun (rectification).

Enlighten us with true perception, and open our eyes and hearts to Your Torah. Thus, may we be privileged to understand all the words of the Torah lucidly, according to their truth, so that no question or doubt will remain in our minds concerning any law or path among the laws and paths of the Torah. Rather, may everything be clarified beyond any shadow of a doubt, even those questions and doubts about which the great tzaddikim of former times declared "teiku." The Moshiach will straighten out them all, untangle them and make them understandable to us, and rectify the paradigm of "teiku" that includes all of the uncertainties in the world—both those that perplexed the great sages of Israel concerning the laws and paths of the Torah, and those that have perplexed everyone, from the greatest of the great to the smallest of the small.

So many of us yearn with all of our hearts to return to You! However, the paths of return and the paths of Torah are hidden from us, and our hearts are torn by doubts and deep uncertainties about which course of action to take. This is especially true of me, as I stand before You today. You know all that I have been through, and how many doubts and conflicts have bothered me about so many things. These confusions are greater than ever today, in so many areas of my life and in so many ways. My soul is so disturbed that sometimes it seems more than I can bear.

Master of the Universe, Master of the Universe! Almighty God of truth, "great in advice, and mighty in deed!" (Jeremiah 32:19). Have compassion on the Jewish people and upon me, and send a wondrous illumination from the World of Rectification (Olam ha-Tikkun), for which our righteous Moshiach will serve as the spiritual channel. Then "teiku" will be transformed to the most wondrous tikkun, and all questions will be resolved and all doubts clarified, even the subtlest "doubts of doubts"—and we will constantly receive perfect, good, and true advice about everything in the world.

In Your compassion, teach us the proper way to mourn and lament over the destruction of the Holy Temple at all times, particularly every night at the exact moment of chatzos, and during the three summer weeks known as "between the straits (bein ha-metzarim)." On the Ninth of Av, the bitter day when both Holy Temples were destroyed, may we recite the Book of Lamentations and kinnos (elegies) sincerely, with a broken and humble spirit, and pour out our hearts like water before You. Let us "put our mouths to the dust—perhaps there is hope" (Lamentation 3:29), and strike our heads against the walls of our hearts, due to our suffering and travail, as a nation and as individuals. How many years have passed since the devastation of our holy city and Holy Temple! How has the glory of the "House of Our Life" been removed! The trouble of each day is worse than the day before, especially now, when harsh and cruel decrees have been issued against our people, beyond our ability to endure. Our lives hang in the balance; our hearts are filled with dread at the thought of the harsh decrees that those that hate us wish to carry out against us, God forbid.

God of mercy, give us the emotional strength to empathize with the plight of the Jewish people, as well as to face our own spiritual dilemma. Give us the courage to break our hearts before You, and pour forth our supplication like water before You in complete sincerity, admitting the greatness of our sins and transgressions, and the “stiff-necked” behavior (Exodus 32:9) that has prolonged our exile and caused all of our grief.

"Let us raise our hearts to our hands unto God in heaven" (Lamentations 3:41). Let us resort to the art of our holy ancestors, and cry and wail bitterly; let us wander the streets and alleys and market places, supplicating the One Above "until He looks down upon us from heaven" (Lamentations 3:50), until He awakens His mercy upon us, and speedily consoles us, and delivers us from our afflictions and sufferings, collectively and individually.

May God enlighten us, even now, with a ray of the light of our righteous Moshiach, thus to mitigate all harsh decrees, and end all of our grief and travail. May He constantly shine upon us the light of truth, and constantly heal us with new and wondrous tikkunim, and answer and elucidate for us all doubts and questions and quandaries. May we constantly receive the right advice, according to the highest truth, so that we will return to You in truth, speedily and with a whole heart, thus to engage in Torah and prayer and the performance of commandments and good deeds, all the days of our lives. Guard us and save us from all sin and transgression, so that we never veer aside from Your will, neither to the right nor the left (cf. Deuteronomy 5:29). May Your compassion be aroused on behalf of Your children, and may You speedily bring us our righteous Moshiach, and redeem us completely, with the final and eternal redemption.

Then the paradigm of "teiku" will be transformed to "tikkun" to the ultimate degree of perfection; that is, the letter nun from the word kinnos (elegies) will be transferred to the end of the word teiku, thus to convert "teiku" to "tikkun." All lamentations will cease throughout the world, and be remade into vessels of divine perception.

O Merciful One, Master of Deliverance, Master of Consolation! We beg You, console us from all of our afflictions, and help us to accomplish our work in this world. Spread forth upon us Your "Tent of Peace"; prepare for us good advice, and save us speedily for the sake of Your Name. Grant us the knowledge of absolute truth. Save us from the many doubts and confusions and uncertainties that interfere with our ability to serve You. Confer upon us perfect and true advice at all times, so that we may return to You in truth, and become the people You want us to be, now and forever, amen sela.

Tisha BeAv

Tisha be-Av is one of the five times during the year that Breslover Chassidim daven together ki-vasikin. The Kinnos are recited with kavannah until the late morning. The recitation of Kinnos is taken seriously, as are all the laws of Tisha B’Av.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Three Weeks

From “Breslov Eikh she-Hu: Customs and Good Practices” compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

Many Breslover Chassidim study Likutey Moharan II, 67, during the Three Weeks and recite the corresponding prayer, Likutey Tefillos II, 33. Some also recite this prayer on Tisha be-Av, but only after chatzos, since it contains words of consolation.
(Cf. Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh VI, 499)


Breslover Chassidim dance after davenning even during the Three Weeks, until Rosh Chodesh Av. The melody usually sung at this time is "Nicham HaShem Tzion." However, beginning on Rosh Chodesh, dancing is curtailed until after Tisha be-Av.
(Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh IV, 191)


During the Three Weeks, some Breslover Chasidim are accustomed to sit on the floor every weekday at noon to recite Tikkun Chatzos, including on Erev Shabbos, as mentioned in Shulchan Arukh. This was Reb Gedaliah’s practice. Reb Elazar informed us that his father would have liked his talmidim to do so be-tzibbur, but this was not feasible at the time. 


Like all Chassidim, Breslovers follow the shittah in halakhah that there is no public display of mourning on Shabbos Chazon.

Heh Av

This is the yahrtzeit of the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria Ashkenazi) of Tzefas, universally recognized as the foremost master of Kabbalah by all Chassidic, Lithuanian, and Sefardic kabbalists. His teachings were written down by his talmid muvhak, Rabbi Chaim Vital (Calabrese), and primarily consists of “Eight Gates,” including the bedrock of his teachings, the Eitz Chaim.

In Tzefas, the hillulah of the Arizal attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world, who recite Tehillim and pray at his gravesite. It is also a widespread custom to immerse in the natural spring where he was accustomed to immerse, not far from his kever in the old Beis ha-Chaim. The Arizal stated that whoever did so would succeed in doing teshuvah for all his sins before he died.

(“Chayey ha-Arizal, a Hebrew biography of the Arizal culled from Shivchey Arizal and other classic sources was compiled and annotated by Rabbi Avraham Abish Tzeinvirt, and published by Makhon Da’as Yosef, Yerushalayim 1990. Rav Ya’akov Hillel of Machon Ahavat Shalom also has published an annotated critical edition of Shivchey Arizal.)

Tisha be-Av

Tisha be-Av  is one of the five times that Breslover Chassidim daven together ki-vasikin. The avodah of reciting Kinnos is taken very seriously and lasts until the late morning.


Reb Levi Yitzchak Bender stated that on Tisha be-Av, it is our minhag to recite the berakhah "she'asah li kol tzorkhi" in its proper place in Birkhos ha-Shachar.
(Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh VI, 497. Similarly, cf. Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom [Munkatch] 675. Some communities omit this berakhah because the Gemara associates it with donning the shoes, and on Tish Be-Av it is forbidden to wear leather shoes or sandals. However, it is permissible to wear shoes made from other materials, such as canvas or plastic.)


The fast is broken immediately after Ma'ariv in the synagogue, prior to Kiddush Levanah. It is customary to dance after reciting Kiddush Levanah upon the conclusion of Tisha be-Av, despite the fact that most restrictions are maintained until noon of the following day.
(Cf. Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh IV, 270)


Soon after Tisha be-Av, Reb Elazar Kenig usually begins studying the lesson from Likutey Moharan that he will publicly deliver on the second night of Rosh Hashanah, together with its related teachings from Likutey Halakhos, etc. On some years he has started learning his Rosh Hashanah lesson even earlier. 

Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Bender

The yahrtzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Bender, zal, the central figure in the Breslov Kehillah of Me'ah She'arim after WWII, will be on 22 Tammuz.

For a brief biography of Reb Levi Yitzchok, see here.

A rare video of one of his shmuessen in Yiddish is also available online here.

May Reb Levi Yitzchok intercede above on behalf of all Klal Yisrael.

Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig's Yahrtzeit

The 23rd of Tammuz is the yahrtzeit of Rav Gedaliah Aharon Kenig (sometimes spelled "Koenig"). Reb Gedaliah was the foremost disciple of Rabbi Avraham Sternhartz and founder of the Breslov community in Tzefat, Israel.

For a brief biography, see here:

An essay on the Breslov mesorah in general, which explains the places of leaders such as Reb Gedaliah, Reb Avraham, and others, appears here:

The Tzefat Breslov website is linked on the sidebar of this blog.

May Reb Gedaliah intercede above on behalf of Klal Yisrael, and may the seed he planted in the mountains of Galil HaElyon flourish and grow!

BRI: Participate in the Completion of Rebbe Nachman's Stories in Hebrew!


From Breslov. org:

During these days, we grieve for the Beit HaMikdash that was destroyed, for the tzaddikim who have left this world, and for the fact that we lack clear knowledge how to serve Hashem (as Rebbe Nachman wrote at length in Likutey Moharan II, 67).

We at BRI are at the cusp of completing the Hebrew edition of Rebbe Nachman’s Stories - Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s translation with accompanying commentary.

Before we close the file, we are asking you, our dear friends, to partner with us so that we can illuminate the world with Rebbe Nachman’s teachings, also in Hebrew.

Dedicate a story or a significant portion of the publishing costs of this very special work.

Help us spread the Rebbe’s teachings throughout the world, so that we will merit the genuine Redemption very soon.

You can bring the Redemption!

CLICK HERE to have the merit to participate 

Monday, April 10, 2023

Other Versions of the Baal Shem Tov’s Nesia

About ten years ago, Rabbi Yehoshua Yosef Kornblit of Yerushalayim published a “
Baal Shem Tov Haggadah” with excerpts of various teachings relating to the text. I have often used this Haggadah, along with Rabbi Alter Tepliker’s Breslov Haggadah “Ohr Zarei’ach,” but didn’t notice that at the very end, he includes a few variations of the story of the Baal Shem Tov’s attempted journey to Eretz Yisrael.

If you can’t find a copy of this excellent Haggadah, you could try contacting Rabbi Kornblit, who lives at 15 Batey Varsha. The phone number given in my edition of the sefer is 02 (or just 2 from chutz la’aretz) 371-059. However, you probably need to add another digit before the 3, since Israeli telephone company switched to seven digit phone numbers in the interim. I’d suggest adding a 5, although I’m not sure.

The basic story as found in the sefer “Adas Tzaddikim” is much the same as our Breslov version (although not surprisingly, it doesn’t include the part about the Baal Shem Tov’s daughter Udel’s rescue in the merit of her future grandson Rebbe Nachman‘s writings). In that version, the cannibals are called “Haidamaks,” which is probably a just a loose usage of the term, and they seem to be pirates rather than man-eating natives. After Reb Hirsh Sofer and the Baal Shem Tov call out responsively the letters of the alef-beis, a bell starts ringing and a mysterious elderly captain comes to the rescue with a group of soldiers, and they scare off the pirates. In this account, the ship makes it back to Istanbul on the Seventh Day of Pesach. As for the old captain—he was none other than Elijah the Prophet.

Another retelling of the story in the sefer “Ginzey Yisrael” similarly ascribes the rescue of the Jewish community of Istanbul to the Baal Shem Tov’s singing “Le-she nifla’os gedolos levado,” but neglects to mention the emissaries and the intervention of the Sultan’s mother.

Zera Baruch” describes how Reb Baruch of Medzibuzh would honor the Baal Shem Tov’s deliverance with a communal meal on Acharon shel Pesach and retell the story of his grandfather’s life from the day of his birth until his sea journey. There, he emphasizes that the underlying purpose of this journey was the final redemption of the Jewish people. For the Baal Shem Tov possessed the “nefesh” of Dovid HaMelekh, while the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh possessed the “ruach” of Dovid HaMelekh. And if the two tzaddikim had finally met, the Baal Shem Tov would have received the “neshamah” of Dovid HaMelekh and thus been empowered to bring about the ge’ulah sheleimah.

Rabbi Kornblit also cites the sefer “Ohev Yisrael” to the effect that the Apter Rov, who lived in Medzibuzh after the passing of Reb Baruch, would also conclude Pesach with a tisch that extended into the night in honor of the Baal Shem Tov’s miraculous rescue.

The Baal Shem Tov’s Nesia to Eretz Yisrael

Breslover Chassidim are accustomed to retell this story during the “Baal Shem Tov Se’udah,” which is the last meal of Acharon shel Pesach (AKA “ne’ilas ha-chag”). This was a common custom among many Chassidim in Europe, and a few such as the Skolye Chassidim still tell the story. This version is based on the Breslov mesorah.

Dovid Sears

Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender, the central figure in the Meah Shearim Breslov kehillah after World War II until his passing in 1989, used to retell the story every year on Acharon shel Pesach. He always said that he retold the story the way he received it personally from Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Uman, a grandson of Rebbe Nachman and a leading mashpiya during the late late 1800s-early 1900s. However, Reb Levi Yitzchok also said that once someone asked his teacher Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman if Reb Shimshon’s version was accurate. He answered, “S’iz doh nuschos ... There are many versions!” (Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn). Like all oral traditions, there are a few differences over this detail or that. Yet these differences are relatively minor.

We have put together this brief outline so that at least something will be available in English for those who wish to tell the story during the final hours of Acharon shel Pesach. This is not an “official” version, but we hope it will be good for starters.

Beginning the Journey
The Baal Shem Tov experienced intense gagu’im to travel to Eretz Yisrael—until at last the time came. (This mystical understanding of traveling to Eretz Yisrael is echoed by Rebbe Nachman’s statement, “With every step, I’m going to Eretz Yisrael,” and his teaching that “all tefillos and avodahs ascend through Eretz Yisrael.” Just as Eretz Yisrael was the goal of the Exodus from Egypt, so in a mystical sense it represents the goal of the spiritual quest of each individual and the Jewish people collectively. See the Breslov teachings in the Tcheriner Rov’s anthology, Otzar HaYirah, “Eretz Yisrael.”)

The Baal Shem Tov took his only daughter, the tzaddekes Udel, and his chassid Reb Hirsch Sofer, as companions for the journey.

It was very unusual to go to Eretz Yisrael in those days, and extremely difficult—unlike today. But he trusted in Hashem and left home with only enough money to reach the next town. (It is well-known that the Baal Shem did not keep even a small coin overnight, but lived from day to day, trusting completely in Hashem.) He was confident that Hashem would make a way for him.

(When Rabbi Shmuel Breines tells the story in the Breslov Shtibel of Borough Park, he often stresses the importance of bitachon, total reliance upon Hashem. Two sources of inspiring teachings about bitachon are Rabbi Avraham ben HaRambam’s Sefer HaMaspik: Shaar HaBitachon, or Rabbenu Bachya Ibn Paquda’s Chovos HaLevavos: Shaar HaBitachon. A quote or two from such sources can help make the story more meaningful.)

Day by day and week by week the threesome traveled from one town to the next, heading toward the port city of Istanbul on the Black Sea. Somehow the Baal Shem Tov received enough money to keep traveling, until they arrived in Istanbul on Erev Pesach.

They had neither provisions nor money for lodgings. But the Baal Shem Tov was sure that everything would work out satisfactorily. They found an inn in the Jewish quarter of the city and took lodgings on the ground floor, where the horses were stabled. Udel went to shore to wash clothes for Yom Tov, while her father and Reb Hirsch went to a nearby Beis HaMidrash.

At the same time, a wealthy childless couple from Germany arrived in Istanbul. This couple had been following the Baal Shem Tov from town to town in order to obtain his brochah, and only caught up to him now. Bi-hashgochah pratis, they wound up at the same inn, where they rented a large suite of rooms, and bought matzos, wine and food for Pesach. Then they went in search of the Baal Shem Tov. They found a Jewish girl washing clothes at the sea-shore—Udel, of course—asked her if she knew the whereabouts of the Baal Shem Tov, and learned that the Baal Shem Tov was none other than her father. Overjoyed, they took Udel back to the inn and instructed the servants to bring the possessions of the tzaddik and his daughter and disciple from the stables to their rooms upstairs.

Knowing nothing about this, the Baal Shem Tov and Reb Hirsch davened, and came back after Maariv to find everything prepared for the sedorim and for Yom Tov. The Baal Shem Tov displayed no surprise at this, but proceeded to conduct the Seder without indicating that anything unusual had happened. Only after he had completed the Seder, did the Baal Shem Tov turn to their host and hostess and declare, “I know why you came here. Know that your wish has been fulfilled, and you will have a child this year!”

However, no sooner had the words escaped his lips than the Baal Shem Tov’s face clouded over, and he closed his eyes; he was experiencing aliyas ha-neshamah, an ascent of the soul to the upper worlds. His daughter Udel had seen this before, but now she was terrified—her father seemed to be in a state of gesisah mamash, his life seemed to be hanging by a thread. In heaven, the Evil Accuser demanded: This couple had been fated to remain childless. By what right did the Baal Shem force the Ribono shel Olam to change all of creation for the sake of this man and woman? The Gemara states, “The tzaddik decrees and Hashem fulfills” (Shabbos 59b), and the Baal Shem Tov’s blessing would surely bear fruit. However, in such matters there is a price to be paid. The heavenly court ruled that in exchange, the Baal Shem Tov would lose his Olam Haboh, his place in the Afterlife.

Then Baal Shem Tov suddenly opened his eyes, the color returned to his face, and with great simchah declared, “Now I will be able to serve Hashem without any p’nia, without any thought of future reward!”

At this, the Evil Accuser insisted that the heavenly court restore his Olam Haboh—to let the Baal Shem Tov serve Hashem with such absolute selflessness was too much!

Disaster AvertedAt this point, Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman would roll up his sleeves and say, “Un in di ma’aseh iz doh noch a ma’aseh . . . And in this story there is still another story...” (Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn, in the name of Rabbi Itche Meyer Korman).

Although Baal Shem Tov’s purpose was to go to Eretz Yisrael, his journey, like all of his actions, contained many other mysteries and purposes. (See Likutey Moharan I, 42. Reb Noson adds that this is not only true of the tzaddikim, but even of ordinary Jews. Everything we do reflects Hashem’s hidden plan for creation. See Avaneha Barzel, p. 88, which is translated in “The Tree That Stands Beyond Space,” p. 57.)

The Sultan of Istanbul was a tyrant who had a special enmity toward the Jewish people. Yet the Jews had influence and power in the city, and the Sultan had to resort to underhanded means to hurt them.

On that Erev Pesach he called together his royal ministers for a secret meeting. He proposed that a pogrom be carried out the next morning, in which the mobs would be incited to kill every Jewish man, woman and child in Istanbul. His ministers were sworn to secrecy about this plan on penalty of death.

Yet one of the royal ministers was a righteous gentile and friend of the Jews. Risking his life, he hastened to warn the leaders of the Jewish community of their great peril. After discussing the matter, they decided to send emissaries to the Sultana, the widow of the previous Sultan who had treated his Jewish subjects with kindness and respect. Perhaps she could intervene. In the cover of night, the emissaries made their way through the city’s streets toward the palace of the Sultana.

Their long trek took them past the very inn where the Baal Shem Tov and his companions were concluding the Seder. Through an opened window, they could hear the Baal Shem Tov singing with fervor “Le-oseh nifla’os gedolos levado … To the One Who alone performs wonderous miracles!” One of the emissaries remarked wryly to his friend, “If that Jew only knew what we know, he wouldn’t sing those words so sweetly!”

(A contemporary Breslover, Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Bnei Brak, remembered an interesting detail here. When his father Rabbi Noson Barsky told the story, according to the version of his grandfather and namesake, Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Uman, and he described how the Baal Shem Tov sang “Le-oseh nifla’os gedolos levado,” he used to sing the well-known niggun of the Baal Shem Tov—thus demonstrating how the Baal Shem Tov actually sang these words. He did so when mentioning the song both while the emissaries were on their way to the Sultana and on their return.)

Arriving at the palace, the emissaries begged the guards for permission to obtain an audience with the Sultana, but were refused admission. Yet they persisted until the Sultana heard the racket at the door and asked who wanted to see her at such a late hour. Learning that they were representatives of the Jewish community on an urgent mission, the good-hearted Sultana admitted them and listened to their tale of impending destruction.

Given the urgency of the situation, she asked the emissaries to remain in her home while she set out in the night to intercede with her son. Arriving at the royal palace, she woke up the Sultan and announced, “Tonight your father came to me in a dream! And he revealed to me that tomorrow our family will be utterly wiped out! My heart palpitated with dread—that’s why I hurried here. We must consult the royal chronicles to see if we can find a reason for this evil fate…”

The Sultan sent for the royal record book and in his mother’s presence saw inscribed therein the slaughter of the Jewish community scheduled for the next morning. “Now, my son, I know why I had this terrible dream!” the Sultana said. “Don’t you know what happens to all those who start up with the Jews? Don’t you know what happened to Pharaoh and Haman and the rest of their enemies? You must call off this pogram, or my dream will surely come true!”

Thus, the Sultan tore up his cruel decree and only then did his mother return home to inform the emissaries of her success. As they made their way through the Jewish quarter, they passed the same inn and were surprised to hear the same man repeating the words “Le-oseh nifla’os gedolos levado.” But now he did so with the greatest merriment.

After the morning prayers, the community leaders informed the kehillah that a great miracle had occurred. Because of Hashem’s mercy, the Jews of Istanbul had been saved from certain death. In recounting the highlights of the story, they didn’t fail to mention the Jew who sang of Hashem’s miracles at the end of the Seder, and how if he had known what was going on, he wouldn’t have been able to sing.

At this, the Baal Shem Tov (still incognito) remarked, “Mir dacht zokh az der Yid mit zein zingen 'le-oseh nifla’os gedolos levado,' hott ehr mevatel geven di gezerah . . . It seems to me that by singing ‘Who alone performs wondrous miracles,’ this Jew nullified the heavenly decree.”

The Sea Voyage
On the first day of Chol HaMoed, the couple from Germany bade farewell to the Baal Shem Tov. They wished to lavish upon him various gifts in their gratitude for his brochah, but the Baal Shem Tov refused to accept anything beyond the kindness they had already shown him. Only one thing did he request—that they provide him and his companions with tickets for the next ship to Eretz Yisrael. They happily did so. And the next ship was leaving that day.

Before boarding the ship, the Baal Shem Tov told his daughter and Reb Hirsch that he had the power to go to the Holy Land in a more expedient way: he could toss his gartel on the waves of the sea, and they could walk across it to their destination. The only condition was that they would have to focus their minds on a certain Holy Name without breaking their concentration for even a second. The tzaddekes Udel answered that she was willing to do so. However, Reb Hirsch feared that he would not be able to maintain his concentration; so they traveled by ship.

The Great Storm
The ship quickly traversed the peaceful waters, among its passengers the Baal Shem Tov and his daughter and disciple. However, in the middle of their voyage, the sky suddenly darkened and a mighty storm struck. The powerful winds cast the ship on the turbulent waves, until it seemed that they were about to either capsize or be dashed to bits.

The Baal Shem Tov said, “The sea will be stilled only if I cast my writings overboard—or if my daughter is willing to take their place. Only then will the storm subside.”

There are different versions of what happened at this point. Reb Levi Yitzchak’s mesorah from Reb Shimshon Barsky was to preface this part of the story with the words: “Anderer zoggen..." ("Some say…”). Then he would go on to state that Udel agreed and was actually cast into the sea. However, with this act of mesirus nefesh, she received a heavenly communication: she was destined to have a grandson who would write “shennerer ksavim,” i.e., even greater writings than those of her father. She lifted up her hands and called to the Baal Shem Tov and told him this. Udel was immediately retrieved, and the precious manuscripts were cast into the waters.

(As a humorous aside, I heard from Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski of Williamsburg that whenever Reb Levi Yitzchok told the story and described how Udel was cast into the sea, Rabbi Nochum Yitzchok Frank would interrupt the story to protest, shouting “Sheker! S’iz nisht shayakh! Es kennisht zein! Lies! It isn’t possible! It can’t be!”)

Another version states that she merely considered jumping into the sea, either mentally or even verbally, but did not actually do so. Suddenly she had a heavenly communication about her grandson, and told her father that they could cast the manuscripts into the sea after all. Immediately they did so, and the storm stopped as suddenly as it had began.

The Cannibals
After this ordeal, everyone on the ship was worn out, physically and emotionally. So they headed for next island they sighted, and anchored offshore in order to set their feet on dry land again for a little while. The passengers disembarked and began to stroll along the shore and among the verdant trees, to recover from their distress.

The Baal Shem Tov and his companions walked until they found a nice shady spot to rest. However, they soon discovered that they had company. Out of the forest emerged a group of cannibals brandishing knives and spears. In a few moments, the cannibals had tied up the threesome and cast them on the ground.

Reb Hirsch, quaking in terror, asked the Baal Shem Tov, “Rebbe, please do something and save us from these savages!”

However, the Baal Shem Tov was silent.

“Why don’t you answer me?” Reb Hirch exclaimed.

“Because right now, I don’t know anything!” the Baal Shem Tov replied. “Do you know anything?”

“Nothing at all,” Reb Hirsch stammered. “Just the alef-beis…”

The cannibals surrounded them, grinning malevolently. In a moment they would start getting ready for dinner…

“If you know the alef-beis, say it!”

Reb Hirsch began: “Alef!” And the Baal Shem Tov answered, “Alef!”



As they prounced the names of the holy letters, the Baal Shem Tov suddenly regained his supernatural powers. In the distance, a bell began ringing, the sound coming closer and closer. Alarmed, the cannibals hastily fled. Soon a carriage came into view, and the people inside freed the prisoners.

Reb Gedaliah Kenig mentioned that Reb Avraham Sternhartz’s mesorah included the detail that as the cannibals were preparing to kill the Baal Shem Tov and his companions, suddenly they heard the ringing of the ship’s bell, and this is why they fled.

Rabbi Shimshon Barsky of Bnei Brak, however, remembered that according to his grandfather’s version of the story, the bells that scared off the cannibals were those of the carriage, and the “people” in the carriage were actually malakhim, angels send by Hashem to save the Baal Shem Tov, Udel, and Reb Hirsch.

(When Rabbi Shmuel Breines of Borough Park tells the story, he often digresses here to remark on the power of “temimus u-peshitus,” simple whole-heartedness and faith in Rebbe Nachman’s teachings. See Otzar HaYirah, “Temimus”)

In any case, those in the carriage transported them back to the shore, where they joined the other passengers returning to the ship. The wind filled their sails and the began to travel rapidly—straight back to Istanbul, in time for Acharon shel Pesach.

The Secret of Success
Rebbe Nachman once discussed how his great-grandfather the Baal Shem Tov and the saintly Rabbi Naftali Katz, author of “Semikhas Chakhomim,” both attempted to reach Eretz Yisrael, without success. Yet Rebbe Nachman managed to overcome all obstacles and reach the Holy Land. Why did he succeed where these great figures did not?

Rebbe Nachman explained: “Eretz Yisrael is the aspect of ‘gadlus de-gadlus’ (a sublime level of expanded consciousness). And it is known that every spiritual ascent must be preceded by a decent. Since Eretz Yisrael is ‘gadlus de-gadlus,’ it must be preceded by ‘katnus de-katnus,’ a most extreme descent. Those who came before me were unable to cast themselves down to such depths…”


In the merit of the tzaddikim, who sacrificed themselves on behalf of the entire Jewish people, may we too be worthy of reaching the ultimate spiritual goal.

Acharon shel Pesach / Last Day of Pesach

From “Breslov Eikh she-Hu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present”

Like other Chassidim, Breslover Chassidim traditionally do not eat gebrokhts (matzah cooked or soaked in liquids containing water) on Pesach. However, in chutz la'aretz, gebrokhts are prepared and eaten on Acharon Shel Pesach, even in the vessels and dishes used for non-gebrokhts. Although this does not apply to Eretz Yisrael, where Shevi’i shel Pesach is the last day, something similar is observed during a leap year when Shabbos falls on Motza’ei Yom Tov. Then gebrokhts are eaten in the regular Pesach vessels and dishes, even by those who live in Eretz Yisrael.


The Rebbe used to go to his daughter Udel for the se’udah on Acharon shel Pesach, during which the family ate soup with kneidlakh. Once Udel served her father two kneidlakh, and he blessed her that in their merit she should have two children. This berakhah came to pass—and Udel regretted that she had not served her father more kneidlakh.
(Avanehah Barzel, sec. 43, p. 33)


The last meal of Acharon Shel Pesach is called the "Baal Shem Tov Se'udah," during which it is customary for a member of the group to retell the story of the Baal Shem Tov's attempted journey to the Holy Land. There is a special Breslover mesorah concerning the details of this story, preserved by oral tradition.
(Most Chassidim used to call this meal the “Baal Shem Tov Se’udah.” In the communities of Skver-Chernobyl, Skolye, and others, they still do. The Breslov nusach of the story of the Baal Shem Tov’s journey may be found in Eretz ha-Kodesh / Masa’ ha-Kodesh, Jerusalem: Toras ha-Netzach, 5758/1998; and in Yiddish in Der Otzar Fun Yiras Shomayim, Hotza’as Ben Adam, Aharon Weinstock, ed. 1992, pp. 71-87. The story was also published many years ago in Mabu’ey HaNachal. Other nus’chos of the story preserved by various Chassidic communities are presented and discussed by Rabbi Shlomo Abish, “Koros Chayav haMekoriyyim shel Rabban Shel Yisrael haBaal Shem Tov ha-Kadosh, zy ‘a,” #4, Kuntres Heichal haBaal Shem Tov, Nisan 5764 / 2004, pp. 145-152.)


On the Shabbos after Pesach, some are accustomed to bake a challah with the form of a key on the loaf. Some engrave this shape by pressing a key into the dough; some attach a piece of dough in this shape; and some bake an actual key in the challah. (Reb Elazar Kenig’s family attaches a piece of dough shaped like a key.)
(Erkhei Yehoshua, Perach Shoshanim 156, mentions that the Manistritcher minhag was to engrave this shape. A reason for the minhag of baking a “shlissel challoh” is offered by the Apter Rov in Ohev Yisrael, “Le-Shabbos Achar Pesach,” pp. 282-283, 330-331.)


Someone once complained to the Tcheriner Rov, “Purim is over, Pesach is over…” The Tcheriner Rov corrected him, replying, “Mer hobben areingenumen a Purim un a Pesach . . . We have internalized Purim and Pesach!”
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)


In this spirit, Reb Avraham Sternhartz would learn Likutey Moharan I, 135 (“Ki Ekakh Mo’ed”), saying, “I am taking the Yom Tov into myself!” He also used to mention that the number of this lesson (135) is be-gematria “matzah.”
(Mabu’i ha-Nachal, Kovetz 53, Nisan 5782, p. 37)

Thursday, March 23, 2023


The Rebbe stated that on Pesach one should cry out in davenning.
(Likkutei Moharan I, 201)


Like his saintly great-grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, the Rebbe did not eat gebrokhts. However, in the Breslov community this chumrah is not taken to extremes. This is due to the Rebbe’s remarks about not taking on chumros yeseiros (excessive stringencies). Therefore, although most Breslovers refrain from gebrokhts, those who have a previous custom to eat gebrokhts are not obligated to change.
(Re. Rabbi Nachman’s attitude about chumros yeseiros, see Sichos ha-Ran (English: “Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom,” Breslov Research Institute), section 235. This seems to have been the prevailing view in the circle of the Baal Shem Tov; cf. Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, Imrei Pinchas ha-Shalem [Frankel edition, Bnei Brak 2003], vol. I, “Pesach,” sec. 170-173, that Reb Pinchas was opposed to excessive stringencies except on Pesach, and even then limited himself to those mentioned in the Shulchan Arukh.)


The Rebbe stated that reciting the Haggadah in a loud voice (be-kol ram) is a form of tikkun ha-bris, rectification of the Covenant.
(Likkutei Moharan I, 20:10)


Shevi’i shel Pesach is one of the five times of the year that Breslover Chassidim are particular to daven together ki-vasikin, following the custom of the Baal Shem Tov.
(See Yemey Moharnat II, 71)

Customs for Chodesh Nisan (Prior to Pesach)

Customs for Chodesh Nisan (Prior to Pesach)
From “Breslov Eikh Shehu: Breslov the Way It Is”
Customs and Practices, Past and Present
Work-in-progress by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

The Rebbe taught that the days of Nisan are days of teshuvah, like the days of Tishrei.
(Likutey Moharan I, 49)


The Rebbe was born on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, which is the Mishnah designates as the "Rosh Hashanah shel malakhim," the day on which the reign of a Jewish king officially begins. Today many Breslover Chassidim travel to Uman to pray near the Rebbe's tziyun on Rosh Chodesh Nisan because it, too, is a “Rosh Hashanah,” and perhaps to some extent possesses the segulos of Rosh Hashanah.


In a letter to Rabbi Avraham Jacobovitch, Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz mentions that Nisan is the head of all months, and is a time of simchah in all the worlds; each day is comparable to a Rosh Chodesh and a Yom Tov; and through this simchah, one can attain tikkun and shemiras ha-bris, as discussed in Likutey Moharan I, 49.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Michtevey Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren R’ Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 26, p. 103)


Beginning on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the minhag in the Ukraine was for each person to recite the parshas ha-nasi followed by the “yehi ratzon” after Shacharis, not to read it from the Sefer Torah in public. This was also the Breslover minhag.
(Heard from Rabbi Michel Dorfman. Those who read the nasi privately include the communities of Chernobyl-Skver, Boyan, Karlin-Stolin, Chabad, etc. Reading it from a Sefer Torah was the minhag of Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz, also mentioned in Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom [Munkatch])


However, in recent years it became the minhag in the Tzefas Breslov community to read the nasi from the Sefer Torah. This change was made out of concern that people not forget to do so.


Reb Elazar and a group of talmidim from Tzefas usually go to Uman immediately after Pesach to spend the last days of Nisan at the Rebbe's tziyun. The chaburah spends one day visiting the kivrei tzaddikim in Berditchev, Medzhibuzh, and Breslov. While in Uman, Reb Elazar teaches Sippurey Ma’asiyos and Likutey Moharan every day, and the chaburah recites Tikkun ha-Klalli be-tzibbur.


Reb Gedaliah and his talmidim used to go to Tzefas in order to pray there on Erev Rosh Chodesh Iyar. When asked about this, Reb Gedaliah said that this was the date that Mosdos Nachal Novea Mekor Chochma had purchased its first property in Tzefas.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)

Mekhiras Chometz / Sale of Chometz
Reb Gedaliah stated that the mekhirah is a complete sale, and chas ve-shalom that one should think otherwise. Therefore, one may sell any quantity of chometz gamur.
(Heard from Rabbi Yaakov Klein)


Reb Gedaliah did not instruct his talmidim to sell their chometz through a Rov who used an arev kablan. Therefore, it seems he was not particular about this.
(Heard from Rabbi Yaakov Klein. The Baal ha-Tanya advocated the use of an arev kablan, a Jew who acts as the agent of the non-Jew who buys the chametz. )

Shabbos Ha-Gadol
After Minchah, it is customary to recite the Haggadah, beginning with “Avadim hayinu” until “le-khaper al kol avonoseinu.” One does so even if Shabbos ha-Gadol falls on Erev Pesach.
(RaMA, Orach Chaim 430:1; Mishnah Berurah, ad loc.)


The Rebbe darshans on the custom that once prevailed in Eastern Europe to turn over the tables after Shabbos HaGadol.
(Sichos ha-Ran 88)


The tables were commonly made so that the top rested on the legs. Therefore, by turning over the top, one was provided with a new, “chometz-free” surface.
(Heard from Rabbi Leibel Berger)

Erev Pesach
Reb Avraham Sternhartz told Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz that Reb Noson used to say: “As soon as one recites the berakhah for bedikas chometz, it is already a shtick Pesach (i.e., one is already connected to Pesach).”
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, editor of Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman, Yemei T’la’os [Jerusalem 1982, fifth edition] p. 41)


Reb Avraham described how after the bedikah, Reb Noson would speak words of mussar to his sons: they should strive to remove the chometz from their hearts, etc. This was the only time he spoke mussar at such length the entire year. He did so order to awaken the paradigm of “yom nakam bi-libi . . . the day of retribution is in My heart, and the year of My Redemption has come” (Isaiah 63:4). This mood lasted until the burning of the chometz the following morning, when one must also destroy the chometz from one’s heart. Reb Noson’s allusion to the verse “yom nakam bi-libi” alludes to Likutey Moharan I, 83, which speaks of searching for chometz with the “light of the eyes” (see there), destroying the chometz in one’s heart, and other awesome tikkunim that are bound up with the Redemption and Beis ha-Mikdash.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, editor of Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman’s Yemei T’la’os [Jerusalem 1982, fifth edition] p. 41)


Reb Gedaliah had a large family and an extremely small dirah. Yet despite the challenges of operating within such circumstances, he remained calm and patient throughout the Pesach preparations, with tzelilus ha-da’as. 
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig)


Reb Gedaliah showed great zehirus in all mitzvos de-rabbanan. Thus, he would not even drink water before bedikas chometz, even though this is halakhically permissible.
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig and Rabbi Yaakov Klein)


Reb Gedaliah did not use a feather and wooden spoon during bedikas chometz, but only a candle and a sheet of paper made into a cone to collect the ten pieces of chometz, etc. One year one of his children came back from kindergarten and gave him a wooden spoon for the bedikah. However, he put it aside and did not use it, commenting, “Ich fier zach vie der Tate . . . I conduct myself like my father.”
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)


Reb Gedaliah’s wife would place each of the ten small pieces of chometz on a piece of paper, and put them on the floor. Reb Gedaliah would collect them during the bedikah and put them in the paper cone together with the candle to be burned in the morning.
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)


Reb Gedaliah was not extreme in his manner of performing the bedikah. For example, if a drawer were not normally used for chometz, he would just open it and quickly look inside. He told his children to clean out the pockets of their clothes during the day, and he did not inspect them at night.
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)


Reb Avraham Sternhartz used to fast all day on Erev Pesach and did not avail himself of the heter to make a siyum or attend one. This also had been the practice of his zeide, the Tcheriner Rov.
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig and Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)


Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn remembered hearing that Reb Avraham had had an older sister who died young, and therefore he was not obligated to fast on Ta’anis Bekhorim; yet he did so anyway. Another possible reason for this stringency, he speculated, was that Reb Avraham wished exempt his bekhor, Reb Noson, during the latter’s childhood, and he simply continued to do so after Reb Noson came of age.


The Rav of Tcherin writes that there is no special inyan in Breslov to bake Erev Pesach matzos, which entails many halakhic risks if conditions are not optimal. "However," he adds, "if one can do so properly and without great difficulty, mah tov u-mah na'im."
(See Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 257. However, Reb Elazar has a copy of an unpublished letter from Reb Noson asking for wheat in order to make Erev Pesach matzos. This was a custom of the Baal Shem Tov still observed in many circles; see Shivchey Baal Shem Tov [Avraham Rubenstein, ed.] 199; Siddur ARI Rav Shabbsai, Seder Erev Pesach, et al.)


Reb Gedaliah did not bake Erev Pesach matzos. Moreover, he was particular not to use them, due to the halakhic problems surrounding them.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig, Rabbi Chaim Man, and Rabbi Moshe Grinberger)


Sometime after chatzos, Reb Gedaliah would recite the letter of Rabbi Shimshon Ostropolier, printed in many editions of the Haggadah. He encouraged his talmidim to do so, as well.
(Heard from Rabbi Moshe Grinberger)


After Minchah, he would read recite the account of the Korban Pesach. This is the common minhag. It is possible that the nusach he followed was that of Rabbi Yaakov Emden’s Siddur. This was one of his favorite seforim, which he often reviewed at different times of the year.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

Reb Michel Dorfman’s Pesach Customs

Heard from Reb Gershon Ginsburg

Once during the 1970s, Reb Gershon Ginsburg and his wife were visiting Yerushalayim, and asked their mentor, the prominent Breslov leader Rabbi Michel Dorfman, if they could join him for the Pesach Seder. He replied that he would be happy to have them as guests, as long as they did not mind the way he handled the issue of gebrokhts. Like most Breslover Chassidim, Reb Michel did not eat gebrokhts—but his wife did. And Reb Michel made no issue of using the same keilim and utensils for gebrokhts and non-gebrokhts during the entire Pesach.


Reb Michel used potatoes for karpas.


Despite his advanced age, he used actual chrein for morror. However, he also served romaine lettuce for those who preferred it to chrein.


He recited the Haggadah with fervor, sang a few passages, according to the common minhag, and did not say vertlach. At the conclusion of the Seder, Reb Michel recited Shir HaShirim, and remained awake learning Torah until it was time to go to mikveh and daven ki-vasikin, as he did every morning.

Rabbi Herschel Wasilski’s Pesach Customs

Photo by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Rabbi Herschel Wasilski’s Pesach Cutoms
From “Breslov Eikh she-Hu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present,” a work-in-progress compiled by Dovid Sears and Dovid Zeitlin.

Rabbi Zvi Yosef (“Herschel”) Wasilski (1922-1981) was the central figure in the New York Breslov community after World War II. There is a Breslover shtiebel in his name on Lee Avenue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, which he founded, and which is led today by his son Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski. Reb Avraham Moshe kindly provided the information posted here.

A descendent of many distinguished talmidei chakhomim, Rabbi Herschel Wasilski was born in Vilna, Lithuania, raised in Oszmiana on the outskirts of the city. At age thirteen his parents sent him to learn in Rabbi Elchonan Wasserman’s famous yeshivah in Baranovitch. Many talmidim in Baranovitch were Breslover Chassidim, and Reb Herschel soon became a Breslover, too. With the invasion of the Nazis, the yeshivah was forced to disband and reestablish itself in Vilna. When Vilna came under attack, Reb Herschel was forced to flee. Captured by the Russian army, he spent the rest of the war in Siberia and then in Samarkand. There, he became a close and lifelong friend of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Bender, who also survived the war and went on to lead the Breslov kehillah in Yerushalayim. Reb Herschel emigrated to New York in 1946, soon entering the Torah Vodaath Yeshivah in Williamsburg, where he later served as a maggid shiur, melamed and menahel. Reb Herschel was a devoted Breslover Chassid who worked tirelessly for the Breslov chaburah in New York and on behalf of the Breslover shul and yeshivah in Yerushalayim and the Breslover Chassidim in Eretz Yisrael.


Rabbi Avraham Moshe recalled that his father, zikhrono liv’rakha, had many personal chumros which reflected his deep yiras Shomayim—but not hakpodos. His Pesach hanhagos were all conducted in a pleasant spirit.


He came from a Litvishe family that basically followed the minhagey ha-GRA. However, unlike his family, Reb Herschel did not eat gebrokhts on Pesach. There were no gebrochts in his home, even on Acharon shel Pesach. Even the children were not allowed to eat gebrokhts.


Reb Herschel did not “mish” (eat food prepared in other people’s homes, or in restaurants or at public events) all year long—but his hatznei’a leches (modest conduct) was so thorough that no one ever noticed. This certainly included Pesach. But on Acharon shel Pesach, for the Baal Shem Tov Seudah (Ne’ilas HaChag), it is customary for everyone to bring some food to shul (usually matzos, hard-boiled eggs, and fruit) which the entire chaburah shares. This was the one time that Reb Herschel did “mish,” as an expression of achdus.


He refrained from commercial food products all year long, with a few exceptions such as bakery bread, rolls, and cake; milk and cottage cheese. On Pesach he used only staples such as salt and sugar (with the hekhsher of the Hisachdus HaRabbonim), and wine. Rebbetzin Wasilski and later her older daughters did all the cooking. The Rebbetzin made her own non-gebrokhts lokhshen. She made her own shmaltz rather than use commercial oil, and she ground her own fish for gefilte fish. On Pesach, she squeezed her own orange juice and grape juice, and they didn’t even use selzer.

Yet, Reb Avraham Moshe added, his father never made an issue about these hanhagos; nobody thought that this was anything special, or that Reb Herschel was “extra frum.” Everything was done with temimus u-pshitus and with simchah. 


Reb Herschel used handmade shmurah matzos from the Poilisher Matzoh Bakery on the Lower East Side, which he participated in baking with a special chaburah. The chaburah included his brother-in-law Rabbi Tuvia Kaplan, his younger brother Rabbi Boruch Kaplan (founder of Beis Yaakov Seminary in America), and Rabbi Dovid Bender (Menahel of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and father of Rabbi Yaakov Bender). They were particular to use razeveh (whole wheat) matzos, as a hiddur in halakhah. (The whole wheat flour was only sifted once, leaving less chance for error.)


Reb Herschel used these handmade shmurah matzos, not machine matzos, throughout Pesach. Rebbetzin Wasilski and the children also used only these handmade shmurah matzos.

He used to leave some matzos on a tray in the middle of the dining table throughout the entire Pesach, in case anyone wanted to wash and make “hamotzi.


Bedikas chometz: The bedikah was a serious avodah for Reb Herschel. He did not speak the entire time, and all the lights in his home were turned off. They would put out ten small pieces of bread, as is the common minhag. Reb Herschel used a long wax candle, which one of his young children would hold for him. He would sweep any crumbs with a feather into a white cloth. He also used a wooden spoon. Yet he did not perform an unusually long bedikah. It took 15-20 minutes to search their seven and a half room apartment.


In those years, bedikas chometz kits were not common. Reb Herschel would get a feather from the local butcher.


He used to say the tefillah after bedikas chometz from the Rabbi Yaakov Emden Siddur (“Dinei Erev Pesach,” p. 226, Lemberg ed.).


After the bedikah, he would tie up the the white cloth and its contents, including the feather and spoon, with string. Then he would hang it from the light fixture in the front hall of the apartment until the morning.


He would recite the tefillah after bi’ur chometz from the Rabbi Yaakov Emden Siddur. Alluding to Yechezkel 36:26, this tefillah asks that Hashem grant us a “lev bosor” (heart of flesh). In Chayei Moharan (sec. 339), Reb Noson mentions that the Rebbe related “lev bosor” to “Breslov” (since they have the same letters). Therefore, Reb Herschel would always tell his children and all those nearby after reciting the tefillah, “So we’re asking to become Breslover Chassidim!”


Hadlokas HaNeiros: The women would light the candles before the zman on the first night, as on Erev Shabbos. The second night they would light after tzes ha-kokhavim. Reb Avraham Moshe assumed that the women recited their own “Shehechiyanu” after lighting, although he wasn’t absolutely sure.


Reb Avraham Moshe remembered that when his father came to the Seder, he had an aura of malkhus. His face would be radiantanpin nehirin.” Reb Herschel wore a white yarmulke and white kittel. He used his regular armchair covered with a white cloth, to the left of which was another chair covered in white with several pillows on which he would recline when drinking the wine or eating the matzoh, etc. But he did not lay down, nor did he recline during the meal.


His sons did not use pillows, but just leaned at the required times. The guests did not have their own pillows, either—and there were always guests.


Reb Herschel did not bentch the children before the Seder (although he did so before the Shabbos meal on Friday nights).


Reb Herschel himself picked out the matzos for “Kohen, Levi, Yisroel” (arranging them in that order—“Kohen” on top, “Levi” in the middle, and “Yisroel” on the bottom), and then set up the Ka’arah.


Ka’arah / Seder Plate: They used one ka’arah, set up according to the minhag of the Arizal (which is the common minhag in Breslov). However, each guest had his own lechem mishneh. The children did not have their own matzos, though, even Reb Herschel’s grown sons.

Simanei HaKa’arah:

Karpas: Reb Herschel used both potato and onion for karpas. Although he preferred potato, he always served onion as well, since this was his father’s minhag (as it was throughout Lithuania). So the onion was on the table, even though he didn’t use it. (This probably reflected the Rebbe’s caution not to eat raw onions in Sichos HaRan 265).

Whenever Rebbetzin Wasilski’s father Rabbi Yaakov Mordechai Gordon joined them for Pesach, they also served raddish for karpas, since that was his family minhag. (This was customary in the region of Kobrin, where his family came from.)

Chazeres: He used the head (keppel) of the horseradish root.

Moror: He used the end (i.e., the root, not the tip) of a romaine lettuce stalk. 

Beitzah: He used a boiled egg, not roasted.

Zeroah: He used the neck of a chicken (gorgel). But in later years, he used the wing (fliegel).

Charoses: Like most Eastern Eurpean Jews, he used a mixture of grated apples, wine, chopped nuts and maybe cinnamon. He would mix them together himself in the late afternoon on Erev Pesach.


Kadesh, Urchatz, etc.: Reb Herschel led the entire Seder, and everyone else followed along. He alone recited “Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz…” (If anyone wished to say it for themselves, they would do so quietly.) He also announced each of these simanim individually as the Seder progressed, and often would comment on it.


Kiddush: According to the common Litvishe custom, Reb Herschel alone made Kiddush on Shabbos and Yom Tov for his family. However, on Pesach every son made his own Kiddush one after the other, in the order of their ages.

He drank the entire kos for each of the four cups of wine—even though in those days only Tokay, Malaga or Concord wine were available. He usually used Concord wine.

He used an 8 or 9 oz. glass kos on Shabbos and Yom Tov and also at the Pesach Seder. Yet he would drink the contents all at once. However, the women and children over bar mitzvah didn’t use such large glasses; they were probably 6 oz. glasses.

Every child also had his own Kiddush cup, even if it was a small shiur. This included even the younger children, beginning when they were as young as three or four.

Everyone stood for Kiddush. The women held their glasses and quietly recited the Kiddush at the same time as Reb Herschel. Then the male guests and his sons would recite Kiddush, one after another. No one left the table during Kiddush, but everyone listened to everyone one else. There was no hefkerus.


Maggid: With Reb Herschel leading, everyone would recite the text of the Haggadah together, section by section. He would frequently add chiddushei Torah based on Breslov teachings. These chiddushim were new every year. Occasionally one of the guests would add a vertl, but this was infrequent.

Reb Herschel recited the Haggadah with a certain niggun or nusach that he probably heard from his father.


He always used Reb Alter Tepliker’s Ohr Zareich Haggadah, which includes various excerpts from the Breslover seforim. Reb Avrohom Moshe recalled that his father had an old edition, probably from the 1940s.


Karpas: He did not recline for karpas.


Yachatz: He would set aside the Afikoman in a cloth bag nearby, and during the Seder one of the children would “steal” it and then bargain with him at the end of the meal, as is common.


He followed the common nusachHoh lachma anya” (with a kometz-heh for “hoh”), not “hey lachma anya” or “ki-hoh lachma anya”—although he was well aware of these variant nuschos. This probably reflected his father’s custom.


Mah Nishtanah: The younger boys and girls would recite the “Fee’ir Kashas,” and Reb Herschel alone would repeat them when they were through. (He would often preface this by saying, “I was the youngest child in my family.”) He would then say, “Der teretz iz… (the answer is)…” followed by “Avodim hoyinu.”

They said the “Mah Nishtanah” in the order of the Bavli, as found in most Haggadahs, and not according to the Yerushalmi and Arizal (even though most of the other Breslover hanhagos conform to those of the Arizal).


In addition to commenting on the Haggadah, he would sing at various points, particularly in Hallel, and then at length after the conclusion of the Seder. Everyone would enthusiastically join in the singing. There were years when some of his talmidim and other local yeshivah bochurim stopped by just to witness Reb Herschel’s Seder (which was much longer than most).


Mitzvas Moror: He would use only the stalks of romaine lettuce, removing the rest of the leaves and then rinsing the stalks thoroughly with water.

He would add some white chrein on top of a few lettuce stalks, with a very small amount of charoses. However, he distributed large shiurim, six or seven stalks.

For his personal use, he would prepare slices of the ends of the lettuce (i.e., the lower part from which the leaves grow) and add white chrein to those slices. This too may have been his father’s minhag.


Korekh: Reb Herschel would add a little charoses to the chrein and lettuce stalks. Despite his carefulness to avoid gebrokhts, he was not concerned with the charoses touching the matzohs for korekh.


Beitzah: At the beginning of the meal itself, he would serve hard-boiled eggs. For himself, he would slice an egg and put the slices in a small dish of salt water. This was his father’s minhag. (In Eastern Europe, many families only ate slices of the egg; they could not give each person a whole egg, due to poverty.)


By the time he got to the fourth kos, which was after 4:00 AM—or sometimes after finishing the Seder—he often would go to the kitchen sink and dampen his forehead with cold water to wake himself up in order to continue his avodah. Reb Avrohom Moshe speculated that he might have even done so for the sake of the children, whom he encouraged to do the same thing.


Afikoman: Reb Herschel was never makpid about the zman of chatzos. Reb Avraham Moshe does not remember his father even mentioning it. He just did his avodah in its own time. And in fact there were many Gedolei Yisrael who were not makpid about the zman chatzos on the Seder nights.


After completing the Seder, he would lead the singing of the various songs at the end, some of which he sang in Yiddish or Russian, as well as in Hebrew. Then he would recite aloud the entire “Shir HaShirim.” After this, he would go to wake up those who asked him to do so for Shacharis, go to the mikveh and then to shul. (He did not daven ki-vasikin but a little after 7:00 AM.) Thus, he would be awake all night long on both of the first two nights of Pesach.


Reb Avrohom Moshe added that one should remember that his father and his peers were strong people, and they were capable of doing these avodahs with simchah shel mitzvah and without becoming overstressed. Reb Herschel himself would always tell people that if they would not be able to function the next day, they surely should finish the Seder earlier.

Reb Avrohom Moshe added a vort of his own about this issue. The Haggadah mentions how five chakhomim stayed up all night discussing yetziyas Mitzrayim, until their talmidim came and announced that the time had arrived for kriyas Shema shel Shacharis. Did the sages need their talmidim to tell them this? Maybe we can infer from this that the talmidim wanted to inform their teachers that they couldn’t stay up all night like their masters and function properly the next day!


After Pesach:

Shlissel Challoh: At first, the Wasilskis did not bake a “shlissel challoh” for the Shabbos after Pesach. But in the later years, Rebbetzin Wasilski would bake a challoh with the form of a key on top of the loaf, not an actual key. (There are a number of different customs for baking shlissel challoh.)


Because they didn’t eat kneidlach on Acharon shel Pesach, for many years Rebbetzin Wasilski made kneidlach for the Shabbos after Pesach. They were prepared from a half-pound of matzoh meal which Reb Herschel bought before Pesach, ground by the bakery from the matzoh baked by his chaburah. However, it seems that this was done for the sake of the children. After the children grew up, Rebbetzin Wasilski stopped making kneidlach for this Shabbos.