Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Seven Beggars’ Gifts: Stories and Teachings from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov


The Book of Genesis states that on the sixth day of creation, God formed Adam’s body from the dust of the Earth, and then breathed into that inert form the spirit of life (Genesis 2:7). This implies that everything has an outer form and an inner spirit. The out form of Judaism is the legal system of the Torah; its inner spirit is a way of transformation, intimately bound up with the Torah's mandates, but leading to a spiritual goal. This goal is da'at, the universal knowledge of God that will spread to all creatures in time to come. It is the Jewish equivalent of "enlightenment." The essays presented here reflect the teachings of Chasidic master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), who discussed this theme at length in his mystical lessons and stories. A short biography of Rebbe Nachman is presented as an appendix at the end of the book.

This work discusses five of Rebbe Nachman's teachings. "Letting in the Light," taken from his magnum opus, Likutey Moharan ("Collected Teachings of Our Master, Rebbe Nachman"), is a general introduction to his ideas about spiritual transformation. The next three teachings, which are to one degree or another connected to Chanukah, the "Festival of Light," develop various facets of this theme. "The Wheel of Transformation," taken from Sichot HaRan ("Talks of Rebbe Nachman"), presents the Redemption of Israel as an inner paradigm. "The Mysterious Guest," a story from another collection of diverse material, Chayei Moharan ("The Life of Our Master, Rebbe Nachman"), addresses the relationship between master and disciple. "The Chandelier of Imperfections," a cryptic parable published together with Sippurei Ma'asiyot, Rebbe Nachman's thirteen mystical stories, addresses the theme of enlightenment and the tzaddik emet, the "true righteous man" who has attained the highest wisdom. The final teaching, “To Be Just Like Me,” discusses Rebbe Nachman’s epic tale, “The Seven Beggars” and the nature of the gifts these mysterious figures confer upon the unnamed newlyweds. This teaching represents the culmination of our presentation, which is why we have made it the book's title.

These essays also includes numerous insights from Rebbe Nachman's foremost disciple, Rabbi Nathan Sternhartz (1780-1844), better known in Breslov circles as “Reb Noson,” who edited and published all of his master's works, and penned numerous volumes of his own. A Torah scholar of towering stature, creative thinker, inspiring teacher, advisor, and spiritual guide, as well as an innovative system-builder, Reb Noson uniquely possessed the qualities that would ensure that Rebbe Nachman's flame would always continue to burn brightly.

I hope that this small volume gives the reader at least a taste of what Rebbe Nachman taught. With the exception of the last chapter, it is made up of written versions of classes I gave for the Breslov Center in Brooklyn, NY, during the late 1990s. “Just Like Me” originally appeared on the “A Simple Jew” in June 2008. The "Afterthoughts" are based upon discussions that followed each lecture. I thank all who participated in these classes. As the Talmud states, "Much have I learned from my teachers, and more from my friends, but most of all, from my students" (Ta’anit 7a).

Dovid Sears
Lag BaOmer 5769 / 2009

Letting in the Light
Likutey Moharan I, 172


It is told that when the notoriously acerbic Chasidic master Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1789-1859) was a little boy, his schoolteacher once jestingly remarked, "I'll give you a penny (or whatever a small coin was called in Poland back then) if you can tell me where God is!"

            "I'll give you two," the child shot back, "if you can tell me where He isn't!"

God is absolutely transcendent - infinite, omnipotent, above all change, all limitations; an absolute unity and not a compound. Yet at the same time, He is right here with us, for "His Glory fills the world."[1] God is also immanent.

In Likutey Moharan II, 7 ("For a Compassionate One Shall Lead Them"), Rebbe Nachman relates these two ways of thinking about God to a passage from the Sabbath and Festival prayer service.[2] The congregation quotes the words of the Ministering Angels, who ask: "Where is the place of His Glory (i.e., God's Revelation)?" - which is a rhetorical question meaning that God is unknowable. Yet in the next breath, the worshippers declare "His glory fills the earth!" How these two perceptions fit together is a paradox that the rational mind cannot grasp; but in truth, they are two sides of the same coin. God's essential nature is a total mystery; the kabbalists call Him "E-l Mistater . . . God Who Conceals Himself."[3] Nevertheless, solve this riddle we must - for the very purpose of creation is, in the Zohar's phrase "b'gin de-ishtimodin lei . . . in order to know Him."[4] Certainly this cannot mean intellectual knowledge, for it is utterly above our heads. It is mystical knowledge.

Another story is told of Rabbi Barukh of Medzhibuzh (1757-1810). Once his grandson and a few friends were playing a game of hide and seek. After awhile the little boy came out of his hiding place, and realized that his companions had run away without even bothering to look for him. Crying, he ran to his grandfather and complained about his uncaring friends. Rabbi Barukh's eyes, too, filled with tears. "God says the same thing,” he explained. “He hides -- but no one bothers to seek Him!”

The first thing we must realize is that encountering God's hiddenness is not the end of the story, but only marks the beginning of our quest - even if we must begin anew again and again, even if we must do so seemingly ad infinitum.

The Chasidic Way

The Baal Shem Tov paved a unique path for seekers of God, a way not only to understand something of God conceptually, but also to experience Divinity.[5] To understand Rebbe Nachman's teachings, we must have at least an inkling of the approach of his illustrious great-grandfather, which he imbibed in his very mother's milk.

The Baal Shem Tov wanted us to realize that the world and the self are no more than a mask for Godliness. Thus, he taught:

"Shem'a Yisrael . . . Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is One" (Deuteronomy 6:6). When you recite the word "One," you should contemplate that the Holy One, blessed be He, is all that truly exists. A person must realize that he is nothing - for the essence of a human being is the soul, and the soul is but a "portion of God Above." Therefore, nothing truly exists except the Holy One, blessed be He.[6]

This particularly applies to those times when God seems to be completely hidden from us:

It is written, "And I will surely hide (haster astir) My face" (Deuteronomy 31:18). As soon as you realize that the Holy One, blessed be He, is hidden, there is no longer any concealment, and all negativity disappears. Thus, the verse uses a double expression of concealment - haster astir. There are times when God will also hide the knowledge that He is present in the midst of His hiddenness.[7]

That is, God is only concealed when we let the world fool us. In truth, “no place is empty of Him.”[8] God is right here, because there is nowhere else for the universe to exist but within God! Anything less than this would contradict the basic belief that God is infinite and absolutely one. The Baal Shem Tov also insists that perception of God's omnipresence is not only attainable through "peak experiences," but can illuminate our most ordinary activities:

When you realize that the Master of the Universe is actually present in your every word and gesture, however great or small, all confusions disperse that eclipse the light of the Essential Mind.[9]

This is the solution to the problem of suffering, which is only possible when a person becomes alienated from God. As the Baal Shem Tov states:

It is written, "I, I am the One Who consoles you" (Isaiah 51:12) [repeating the word "I"]. When you realize that the true "I" is God, and nothing exists aside from Him - then [the divine assurance is fulfilled that] "I am the One Who consoles you."[10]

Thus, the Baal Shem Tov promulgated an encompassing path illuminated by and directed toward this perception of God's Oneness. The only catch was how to open our eyes so that we, too, might share it. As we shall see in the following teaching, this was Rebbe Nachman's concern, no less than that of his holy great-grandfather.

Letting in the Light
Likutey Moharan I, 172

In this brief lesson, Rebbe Nachman further develops what scholars of religion term the Baal Shem Tov's panentheism - the belief that G-d is present within all things, despite His ultimate transcendence. And he zeros in on our most practical concern, namely how one can penetrate the illusion of the world and glimpse the Divine Essence within all things. Rebbe Nachman explains:

Whatever one lacks - whether concerning children, livelihood, or health - everything is from the side of the person himself. For the light of God flows upon one continuously; however, through evil deeds, each person makes a shadow for himself, so that the divine light does not reach him.[11] According to one's actions, a shadow is cast which obstructs the light of God. The deficiency is commensurate with the deed that created the shadow.

Now, a shadow is produced by a physical thing that stands before a spiritual thing (i.e. something of a more subtle nature) - just as a physical stick or stone placed opposite the light of the moon or sun will cast a shadow. Likewise, a solar or lunar eclipse is due to the shadow of the earth.[12] Moreover, the sun itself is physical in relation to that which is above it, and casts a shadow against it.[13]

Therefore, according to one's materialistic attachments and actions, one creates a shadow within him that prevents God's light and bounty from reaching him. However, if a person nullifies himself and no longer exists in this [illusory] world at all, he no longer casts a shadow, and receives the light of God, may He be blessed.

The essence of the divine light is glory; for "all that the Holy One, blessed be He, created, He created for His glory, as it is written: 'For My glory I created it…' (Isaiah 43:7)."[14] 

This is the meaning of "The entire world is full (mi-lo kol ha'aretz) of His glory" (ibid. 6:3). That is, if one is "not of the world altogether [mi-lo kol ha'aretz, a play on words]" and has no part in this world at all - then he receives the light of God, which is the divine glory.

This, too, is the meaning of "The wise will inherit glory" (Proverbs 3:35), for "wisdom comes forth from nothingness" (Job 28:12).[15] Therefore, the wise, who are "nothing," are granted a perception of glory. Having overcome all materialism, they do not create an obstructing shadow.

            The concluding paragraph of this lesson introduces the idea that mystical perception also depends on one's emotional state:

When God, may He be blessed, displays a joyous face (panim), this brings life and good to the world; and the opposite is also true, God forbid. Similarly, when the tzaddik displays a joyous face, it is good - and vice-versa.[16] This is the meaning of the verse "See, today I have placed before you [lifneykhem, which is etymologically related to the word panim, meaning 'face'] life and good, as well as death…" (Deuteronomy 11:26) - that is, lifneykhem, according to your face.

At a glance, this may seem to have a somewhat tenuous connection to the previous theme. The lynch pin is Rebbe Nachman's reference at the beginning of his teaching to both a solar and lunar eclipse and the cosmic hierarchy (a subject to which we will return in "The Chandelier of Imperfections"). Let’s take a closer look at his words: “Likewise, a solar or lunar eclipse is due to the shadow of the earth. Moreover, the sun itself is physical in relation to that which is above it, and casts a shadow against it.” In kabbalistic terms, the sun and moon correspond to mashpi'a, the "giver" or source of influence, and mekabel, the receiver. On the one hand, the tzaddik is like the moon, being a receiver in relation to God. On the other, he is like the sun, being a giver in relation to the world, particularly to those on lower spiritual levels. Only a perfect tzaddik can attain total bittul - absolute nullification of ego that eliminates every trace of the shadow. Thus, in order to fulfill our potential, we who occupy lower levels must receive illumination from the tzaddikim.[17]

With his last remarks, Rebbe Nachman lets us know that this illumination is conditioned by our approach, the "face" we display. God's "face," or manner of revelation, depends on our "face," meaning our spiritual state.[18] If we wallow in coarse materialism, we block the light. If we detach ourselves from worldly vanities and let go of our all-consuming self-interest, we immediately become receptors for Godliness - and, by implication, the light of the tzaddik, who transmits the divine light to us, just as the sun illuminates the moon.[19]

Hitbodedut: The Divine Conversation

Elsewhere, Reb Noson adds that he heard a slightly different version of this teaching from another disciple of Rebbe Nachman. This version is even more lucid:

You must nullify each of your negative traits until you have annihilated the ego completely, as if it were utterly non-existent.

Begin with one negative trait and nullify it completely, until not a trace remains. Then work on your other negative traits, one at a time, until they no longer exist. As you nullify the ego, God's glory will begin to shine through and be revealed. God's glory is like light, as the verse states, "And the earth is illuminated with His glory" (Ezekiel 43:2).

After reiterating the analogy of the physical object placed before the sunlight that casts a shadow, this second version of the teaching concludes:

Thus, it is written, "The entire world is full (mi-lo kol ha'aretz) of His glory" (Isaiah 6:3). When there is nothing to cast a shadow and thereby obstruct the light, His glory is revealed through all the earth.[20]

This corresponds to the path of hitbodedut Rebbe Nachman delineates in Likutey Moharan I, 52 ("Ha-Ne'or ba-Laylah / One Who Remains Awake At Night"). Through hitbodedut - going out alone at night to a secluded place where people do not commonly go even by day, and speaking to God in one's own words - one may systematically nullify all negative personality traits until one attains bittul, total self-effacement. Rebbe Nachman's descriptions of this process in both lessons are almost identical. By removing these negative traits, we remove the shadow, allowing the light of God, who is the “Imperative Existent,” to shine forth. (We should add that bittul is not to be confused with low self-esteem or self-hatred, traits that are merely the "flip side" of self-importance. We are supposed to hate our evil traits, but not become morbidly obsessed with ourselves in so doing. Rather, bittul denotes transcendence of the ego - seeing through the illusion of the self as something that exists apart from God.) Thus, it seems that the most basic way to put this teaching into practice is through hitbodedut.

The Art of Giving

Reb Noson uncovers still another dimension of this lesson's meaning by relating the negation of the shadow to tzedakah, giving charity, and by implication, performing all the commandments.[21]

The charity one gives to a needy person is a most lofty thing; as our sages taught, it is comparable to fulfilling the entire Torah.[22] For through tzedakah, one removes the "shadow" and reveals God's glory. All deficiencies are the result of the shadow, which blocks the light. However, giving charity eradicates poverty and deficiency. Through this, one removes the shadow that disrupts the light of God's beneficence.

Thus, the verse states in reference to tzedakah, "With righteousness (tzedek), I shall behold Your face" (Psalms 17:15). When the shadow departs, the "light of God's face," so to speak, is revealed. This is the aspect of "The entire earth is full of His glory" (op cit.). This, too, is the meaning of the verse, "But unto you who fear My Name, a sun of righteousness (tzedakah) shall shine" (Malachi 3:20) - for when the shadow departs, the light of the sun shines brightly. All this is accomplished by tzedakah.

Therefore, tzedakah effects atonement for sin, as it states, "Redeem your sin through tzedakah…" (Daniel 4:24). Sin creates a dividing barrier, a shadow that interferes with divine illumination, occluding the revelation of God's face according to the severity of the transgression. All harmful effects of sin are the result of this obstruction of the light. However, tzedakah draws down heavenly beneficence, directing it to the place of impoverishment and deficiency and removing the shadow. Thus, by undoing the effects of sin, tzedakah effects atonement.

This is why giving tzedakah is equivalent to fulfilling the entire Torah. The encompassing purpose of the Torah is to reveal God's glory, as it is written, "For My glory I created it…" (Isaiah 43:7); in the holy Zohar's phrase, [the purpose of creation is] "b'gin de-ishtimodin lei . . . that they should know Him."[23] Through the performance of all the commandments, the barrier, which is the shadow, disappears, allowing the light of God's glory to shine through; and this is especially true of tzedakah.[24]

The act of giving nullifies the root of all negative traits: ego. It represents the shift from the illusion of the self as “something special” – that is, an autonomous entity, seeking its own gratification -- to the perception of true reality: the interconnectedness of creation. And it expresses the ethic of striving to benefit all creatures that goes hand in hand with this perception. In the words of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (1522-1570):

Divine wisdom gives life to all things. As it is written, 'Wisdom gives life to those who possess it' (Ecclesiastes 7:12). Likewise, one should teach the ways of life to the entire world, obtaining for them life in this world and the World to Come, and providing them with the means to live. This is the rule: one must be flowing with life toward all beings.[25] 

The Commandments

The mitzvot, or commandments, too, express this paradigm of giving. The kabbalists compare the mitzvot to "620 pillars of light."[26] Each mitzvah is a channel for the divine light, bringing about an accord between God, Whose will it expresses, and man, who receives an influx of spiritual illumination in fulfilling God's will. Performing the mitzvot thus accomplishes the unification of the highest and lowest of the ten sefirot, or divine powers that make up the infrastructure of the universe. Keter, the "Supernal Crown" (which bears the gematria of 620) is the source of God's primordial will; thus it is conceived as hovering above all manifestation. Malkhut, "Kingship," reflects the fruition of that primordial will on the lowest plane of creation.

Because it transcends all form and limitation, Keter is also associated with the aspect of ayin (nothingness) in relation to the rest of the sefirot. Man, being "created in the divine image" (Genesis 1:26), possesses powers analogous to those of the Creator. Thus, through our performing the positive and negative mitzvot, the aspects of both doing and non-doing, all expressions of human power, return to the true source of power, which is the divine will. In the phrase of the holy ARI (Rabbi Isaac Luria, 1534-1572), the ani ("I") reverts to ayin ("nothingness").[27]

When we give tzedakah or fulfill the mitzvot with bittul - no ego - we become spiritually reoriented. We understand that we are inextricably bound up with the entire universe, and with the One Who continually brings everything into existence, every moment. We realize that the "self" is but a note in a chord in the silent symphony of all creation. This perception is the Song of the Future World of which Rebbe Nachman speaks in the last discourse of his life:[28] the Song of the Four Letter Name YHVH permuted as yud, yud-heh, yud-heh-vav, yud-heh-vav-heh, corresponding to the Four Worlds: the Song of Oneness that we are all waiting to simultaneously sing and hear.[29]

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, one of the seminal Jewish thinkers of the 20th century and a great admirer of Rebbe Nachman, also speaks movingly of this “Fourfold Song” and explains it as an expression of compassion:

There is one who sings the song of his own soul, and within his soul he finds everything: full spiritual satisfaction.

Another sings the song of his people. He leaves the circle of his individual being because he finds it without sufficient breadth, lacking an idealistic basis. He aspires toward the heights, and attaches himself with ethereal love to the community of Israel entirely. Together with her, he sings her songs. He suffers in her afflictions and delights in her hopes. He contemplates sublime and pure thoughts about her past and her future, and probes with love and wisdom of the heart her spiritual essence.

There is another whose soul expands until it goes beyond the boundary of Israel to sing the song of humanity. His spirit extends to the wider vistas of humanity as a whole, and the splendor of the divine image [in which man was created]. He aspires toward man’s collective goal and looks forward to his higher perfection. From this source of life, he draws the subjects of his meditation and intellectual inquiry, his aspirations and visions.

There is still another who rises toward even wider vistas, until he links himself with all existence, with all creatures, with all worlds; and with all of them he sings his song. Of one such as this, tradition has said that whoever sings “Perek Shirah” [a rabbinic work mentioned in the Talmud which attributes various Scriptural verses to the various birds and animals] every day is assured of a place in the World to Come.

And then there is one who ascends with these songs in one great symphony, and they all lend their voices. Together they sing their songs with sweet delight, each transmitting vitality and life to the other: a sing of happiness and joy, a song of mirth and exultation, a song of gladness and joy!

The song of the self, the song of the people, the song of humanity, and the song of the universe all merge in him at all times, in every hour. And this unity rises in its fullness to become the song of holiness, the song of God, the song of Israel, in its awesome strength and beauty, in its truth and greatness.

The name “Israel” stands for shir E-l, the “song of God.” It is a simple song, a twofold song, a threefold song, and a fourfold song. It is the Song of Solomon (Hebrew: “Shlomo”), whose name means “peace” or “wholeness.” It is the song of “the King unto Whom wholeness belongs”(Shabbat Zemirot).[30]


Combining Meditation and Action
Reb Noson's teaching about tzedakah can help us to resolve a seeming contradiction in Rebbe Nachman's main discourse on secluded meditation and prayer, Likutey Moharan I, 52. The first part of the lesson discusses the nature of the "Imperative Existent," a term borrowed from Maimonides here meaning the Creator, versus the "Contingent Existent" or “Possible Existent,” meaning creation;[31] and the role of the Jewish people in the divine plan. This section concludes with the assertion:

To the extent that Israel performs the will of the Omnipresent One and becomes incorporated into its Source, which is the Imperative Existent - through this, the entire world that was created for them becomes incorporated into the Imperative Existent.

This indicates the primacy of our performance of the mitzvot. By performing God’s will, we reconnect to God and “complete the circle.” The second half of the lesson, however, takes a different tack:

However, to be worthy of this, to become incorporated in one's Source - that is, to return and be subsumed within the Oneness of God, Who is the Imperative Existent - this can only be attained by negating the ego (bittul). A person must nullify himself completely, until he becomes subsumed within the Divine Oneness. And it is only possible to come to this state of self-nullification through hitbodedut (secluded meditation and prayer).

Rebbe Nachman explains that by going out at night to an isolated place and engaging in this practice, one can transmute the Contingent Existent, namely the illusion of the self, to the Imperative Existent - to Godliness, which is the essence of all things. The nullification of one's negative traits through hitbodedut corresponds to "negating the shadow" in the teaching above.

What is the connection between the two halves of Likutey Moharan I, 52? If hitbodedut brings us to the ultimate goal, why do we need the mitzvot? However, in light of Reb Noson's teaching about tzedakah, it all fits together.

Having engaged in hitbodedut to the point that all negative traits have been overcome, one's task is now to serve God through the performance of the commandments (and indeed in all of one's ways) with bittul - no ego. Fulfilling the mitzvot completes the unification of the Holy One, blessed be He, and the Shekhinah (Divine Presence), corresponding to the sefirot of Tiferet (Beauty) and Malkhut (Kingship), at the level of action. The mitzvot constitute a direct channel for the divine will, a paved path to Keter Elyon, the Supernal Crown that hovers directly above Tiferet, and precedes the entire array of the sefirot. Keter is called ayin (“nothingness”), because it transcends all limitation and form. It is also associated with the primordial divine will to create the universe. Thus, it is the source of the mitzvot, which in a detailed way express the divine will.

Performing the mitzvot with devotion and no self-serving motives causes all creation to ascend, as Rebbe Nachman states at the end of Likutey Moharan I, 52, together with the person who comes to realize his own nothingness before God, thus fulfilling the purpose of creation.

The Wheel of Transformation

After the sin of the Golden Calf, God commands Moses, "Make a sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among you" (Exodus 25:8). The Children of Israel had estranged themselves from God and Moses. However, through the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert, and later through the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, this relationship was restored and all spiritual injuries healed.

The Holy Temple is the central paradigm for the spiritual and even physical accord between the Creator and creation. As Rebbe Nachman states in the lesson we are about to read, it embodies the principle of "the superior below and the inferior above." That is, Godliness "descends" into the vessels of creation, and creation "ascends" to its Essence, which is the Divine Oneness. The cognitive realization of this mystery is called da'at, literally, "knowledge." However, a better translation would be "enlightenment." In this context, the term da'at does not refer to an idea or concept, but to an encompassing perception of the divine essence of all things.

The connection between the Holy Temple and enlightenment is underscored by a teaching from the Talmud:

Rabbi Ami said: Great is da'at, for it was given between two Divine Names; as it is written, "A God [E-L] of Knowledge [de'ot, a construct of da'at] is the Lord [YHVH]" (Exodus 2:3).[32]

First the verse says "E-L," the Divine Name associated with the attribute of lovingkindness; then it says "de'ot"; and then the Essential Divine Name YHVH, also known as the Divine Name HaVaYaH. So enlightenment / da'at is couched between these two holy names. The Talmud continues:

Rabbi Elazar said: Great is the Holy Temple, for it was given between two Divine Names; as it is written, "Your dwelling place that You brought into existence, O God [YHVH], the sanctuary [mikdash], O God [ADNY], that Your hands established…" (Exodus 15:17).

Just as enlightenment / da'at is found between two Divine Names, so is the Holy Temple / mikdash. Thus, the sages show that there is a certain equivalency between the two. The Holy Temple is the very channel for the revelation of divine wisdom in this world. As such, it is the antithesis of philosophy, which is a product of human reason, reflecting the natural order. Divine wisdom, by contrast, both encompasses and transcends nature; it is supra-rational, miraculous.

            In the teaching from Rebbe Nachman about Chanukah and the Holy Temple that we are about to consider, rationalist philosophy is pitted against "mystical wisdom," represented by the Holy Temple - and the former is defeated by the existence of the latter. Although Rebbe Nachman doesn't say so, this is why the struggle of a handful of Jews against a foreign invader more than two thousand years ago remains relevant even today. The Syrian Hellenists sought to suppress the study of Torah and the rites of the Holy Temple, advancing an alternative world-view. The Talmudic sages recognized that this conflict was not just one of many political struggles the Jews had endured as a nation. Rather, it represented an archetypal conflict between two approaches to life, and existentially between two antithetical ways of being-in-the-world.

            The Hellenists asserted the superiority of man-made philosophy. Even their gods were conceived in vividly human terms. By contrast, the Maccabees who led the Jewish uprising asserted the superiority of divine intellect, prophecy, and the paradigm of the Holy Temple. The miraculous victory of the Maccabees, as Rebbe Nachman explains it, was actually a refutation of the Greek approach, which was the philosophical approach, and the occasion for a new revelation of divine intellect: the da'at for which the Holy Temple was, and is, destined to be the unique channel.

The Wheel of Transformation
Sichot HaRan 40 (abridged)

Rebbe Nachman begins his discourse by attacking philosophy - even the philosophical works of great medieval rabbis - and by asserting the primacy of simple faith: the basic Jewish belief that God creates and sustains the world, and will renew it in an entirely wondrous manner in time to come. He states:

Concerning the order of creation, the philosophers ask: why is a star a star, or a constellation a constellation? For what misdeed were lower things, such as the various animals, consigned to lower levels? Why isn't the opposite the case? Why is the head a head, and why is the foot a foot, and why isn't the opposite the case?

Questions like these are discussed at length in their books. However, in truth, this is "vanity and a disturbance of the spirit" (Ecclesiastes 1:14). We do not need to question God's ways, because "tzaddik vi-yashar Hu . . . He is righteous and just" (Deuteronomy 32:4).

In truth, the entire world is a wheel of transformation. It is like a dreidel, a toy top that spins around and around. Man becomes angel, and angel becomes man; head becomes foot, and foot becomes head, and similarly all other aspects of creation. Everything goes in cycles, revolving and being transformed. All things exchange forms, lowering the higher, and elevating the lower.[33] For all things share one root.

There are transcendental beings such as angels, which have no connection to the material. There is the celestial realm, whose nature is very subtle. Finally, there is this lowly world, which is completely corporeal. Although to be sure, each of these three is derived from a particular place, nevertheless, they all share one root.

Rebbe Nachman's reference to a "particular places" that share a common root reflects the kabbalistic concept that every aspect of the Four Worlds of 'Asiyah / Action, Yetzirah / Formation, Beriah / Creation, and Atzilut / Emanation has its root in the metaphysical superstructure of creation. The Zohar calls this Adam Kadmon, "Primordial Man,"[34] which, of course, is not any sort of man at all, in the ordinary sense of the word. This awesome and purely abstract reality defies our grasp. We cannot imagine what Adam Kadmon truly is, aside from that it is the substratum of creation. However, what we can say is that all levels of creation reflect the archetype of the human form, beginning with Adam Kadmon. The array of the ten sefirot, too, conforms to this principle. As the Tikuney Zohar states, "Chesed / kindness corresponds the right arm, Gevurah / might corresponds to the left arm, Tiferet…"[35] and so forth. Thus, Rebbe Nachman acknowledges that every phenomenon has its corresponding noumenon - its "particular place" in the metaphysical worlds, which devolve from Adam Kadmon. On this highest plane, all things share a common root.

Therefore, all creation is a wheel of transformation, revolving and oscillating. Right now, something may be on top, like a head, and another on the bottom, like a foot. Then the situation is reversed. Head becomes foot, and foot becomes head. Similarly, man becomes angel, and angel becomes man.

Our sages teach us that angels were cast down from heaven to this lowly world. They entered physical bodies and became subject to all sorts of worldly lusts.[36] Many times angels were sent on missions to this world and clothed themselves in physical bodies.[37] We also find the opposite - cases where human beings became angels.[38] For the world is a revolving wheel. It spins like a dreidel, with all things emanating from one root.

The feet of some are also higher than the heads of others; for in the supernal worlds, the lowest level of an upper world is higher than the highest level of a lower world. Yet everything revolves in cycles.

That is, the hierarchy in creation is dynamic: nothing remains fixed, nothing exists exactly as it did a moment ago, everything is in a constant process of transformation; yet there is an encompassing unity within which all things are subsumed. This oneness is beyond hierarchy, beyond division altogether. It is the prima materia, the foundation of all diversity, as Rebbe Nachman will soon explain. This oneness is what in another lesson Rebbe Nachman calls emet, the true nature of things.[39] It is also the domain of the holy, where Creator and creation meet.[40]

Although the universe is unimaginably intricate and complex -- and in the Baal Shem Tov's conception, reflects divine providence in its every detail[41] - nevertheless, the essence of all things is Godliness. In this sense, we may say that all is One.

It should also be noted that Rebbe Nachman describes each level of creation in terms of its relative coarseness and materiality. Transcendent beings are beyond materiality; the celestial realm has only the subtlest material aspect; and the earth is altogether physical. In kabbalistic terms, this reflects a process known as tzimtzum - constriction of the divine light - and each level of creation, in general and in particular, may be described as a "garment" for that which precedes and transcends it. Thus, the hierarchy is one long scale, like a musical scale, of devolving substantiality, level after level. However, this scale is but the modulation of one "sound." That sound includes all notes, and is present within all notes, a concept which Reb Noson develops further in his Likutey Halakhot.[42]

The next section of our discourse relates the symbol of the dreidel, tying in this seemingly “innocent” custom, which is not mentioned in the Talmud or any primary sources, to the core issues of Chanukah:

This is why we play with a dreidel on Chanukah.

Chanukah is an aspect of the Holy Temple.[43] The primary concept of the Temple is the wheel of transformation. The Temple represented the paradigm of "the superior below and the inferior above."[44]

That is, what is inherently bound up with a higher level of the cosmic hierarchy becomes revealed on a lower level, and what is inherently bound up with a lower level of that hierarchy becomes spiritually elevated. As the Rebbe goes on to explain:

God lowered His Presence into the Temple, which is "the superior below." The converse is also true. The entire pattern of the Temple with all its details was engraved on high,[45] which is the paradigm of "the inferior above." The Temple is therefore like a dreidel, a spinning top, for everything revolves and is transformed.

The Temple refutes philosophical logic. God is beyond every transcendental concept, and it is unthinkable that He should constrict His Presence into the vessels of the Temple. [As King Solomon declared,] "Behold, the heavens and the heavens of heavens cannot contain You - how much less this House!" (I Kings 8:27).

Yet God caused His Presence to dwell within the Temple, thus destroying all philosophical logic.

Philosophy cannot explain how man can have any influence on high. Nor can it explain how a mere animal can be sacrificed and rise as a "sweet savor"[46] and source of gratification before God, "Who spoke and His will was fulfilled."[47] How is "will" applicable to God? However, God showed that the truth contradicts their logic. For in fact God brought His Presence below into the Temple, and the animal ascended as a sweet savor. Philosophical logic is crushed by the dreidel, the spinning wheel that brings "the superior below and the inferior above."

The power of the hyle, discussed in their books, stands between potential and actual.[48] Before anything comes into existence, it must exist in potential. Coming from potential to actual, it must first pass through the in-between stage of the hyle. All manifestation thus emerges from the hyle.

Thus, the hyle is the source of all creation.[49] The three categories of creation - transcendental, celestial, and physical - all proceed from this common root. As they change form from transcendental to physical and vice-versa, they all revolve around this root, within which they are one.

This description suggests that the hyle is not just a stage through which everything must pass in the voyage from potentiality to actualization, but is a realm unto itself; an encompassing reality, which stands above and beyond the hierarchy of creation altogether. It is like the absence of color that contains all colors, the silence that contains all sounds.

The letters on the dreidel are heh, nun, gimel, and shin.

Heh stands for hyle.
Nun stands for Nivdal, the transcendental.
Gimel stands for Galgal, the celestial.
Shin stands for Shafal, the lower, physical plane.

The dreidel thus includes all creation. It goes in cycles, alternating and revolving, one thing becoming another.

Chanukah means "dedication," referring to the dedication of the Holy Temple, the paradigm of "the superior below, and the inferior above." This revolving wheel is the dreidel.

Rebbe Nachman now turns to contemplate the Redemption. The political victory of Chanukah was occasioned by the miracle of the one flask of oil with the seal of the Kohen Gadol / High Priest that burned for eight days. This miracle was a foretaste of the Redemption. Then, too, all oppression will cease, the Jewish people will be restored to their ancient homeland in peace, and the miraculous nature of reality will be perceived by all. Thus, Rebbe Nachman asserts:

Redemption, too, will express this alternating cycle, as in the paradigm of the Holy Temple: the superior below and the inferior above.

When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea after the redemption from Egypt, they sang, "You brought them and planted them on the Mount of Your inheritance . . . the Temple that Your hands established" (Exodus 15:17). Redemption was for the sake of the building the Holy Temple, which embodies the wheel of transformation. For when the superior are below and the inferior are above, which is the ultimate goal - this shows that everything is one.

This is the meaning of the letters on the dreidel. They correspond to the initial letters of the verse "You redeemed the staff of Your inheritance, Mount Zion…" (Psalms 74:2).

Gimel is Ga'alta - "You redeemed"
Shin is Shevet - "the tribe"
Nun is Nachalatecha - "of Your inheritance"
Heh is Har Zion - "Mount Zion"

This is the paradigm of "You brought them, You planted them on the Mount of Your inheritance." It is the aspect of the Holy Temple, symbolizing the wheel of transformation, which is the essence of redemption.

Thus, the Redemption is not only a matter of liberation from the oppression of other nations. It is also a spiritual phenomenon: liberation from inner conflict and our most basic misconceptions about reality and the self, a correction of our deep confusion about nature as an autonomous force, and an awakening to the miraculous and the divine. It is this erroneous way of thinking - the true "exile mentality" - that Rebbe Nachman attacks with his critique of philosophy.

Spinning the Dreidel

To sum up the discourse, Rebbe Nachman describes creation as a "wheel of transformation," giving three basic models for this concept: the Holy Temple, the Chanukah dreidel, and the Redemption. However, in describing the Redemption, Rebbe Nachman stresses not so much the political aspect, not even the ideal of world peace that the prophets extol, but our spiritual liberation. This is brought about through the revelation of da'at, or divine intellect. The core of that da'at is the paradoxical knowledge of how all things proceed from Oneness, are permeated with Oneness, and throughout all possible transformations remain subsumed within Oneness. This is symbolized by the Chanukah dreidel, spinning to the delight of little children whose innocence and simplicity renders them still capable of true delight. For all creation is a cosmic dreidel, spinning on its axis in eternity - and if we have eyes to see, we too can gaze upon it with delight.


Answering the Philosophers

"The head becomes a foot, and the foot becomes a head . . . All things exchange forms, lowering the higher, and elevating the lower." This is actually Rebbe Nachman's answer to the materialist philosophers cited at the beginning of the discourse. In truth, nothing is a fixed entity; all existence is impermanent. There is no "head" or "foot" in an absolute sense. One may ask: if this is such an important point, why did Rebbe Nachman state it in passing, as if it were a side issue? Perhaps he meant to imply that these philosophers do not deserve a direct answer - because their questions are already answers. They are not even listening. Rebbe Nachman's words are only intended for those of faith; therefore, answering the philosophers is truly a side issue.

Dreidel Ethics
"All things are different - but in their root, they are the same." There is a wonderful teaching from the Baal Shem Tov related to this concept that I like to repeat whenever I have a chance.

"Do not consider yourself superior to anyone else," the father of Chasidism states. "In truth, you are no different than any other creature, since all things were brought into being to serve God. Just as God bestows consciousness upon you, He bestows consciousness upon your fellow man. In what way is a human being superior to a worm? A worm serves the Creator with all of his intelligence and ability; and man, too, is compared to a worm, as the verse states, 'I am a worm and not a man' (Psalms 22:7). If God had not given you a human intellect, you would only be able to serve Him like a worm. In this sense, you are both equal in the eyes of Heaven. A person should consider himself, the worm, and all creatures as friends in the universe, for we are all created beings whose abilities are God-given."[50]

If all creation is essentially one, proceeding from one source, as Rebbe Nachman also states, we must show compassion and respect for all of God's works. We are all spinning in the same dreidel!

The Dreidel and the Snake
The letters heh-nun-gimel-shin traditionally inscribed on the four sides of a dreidel bear the gematria of the word nachash / serpent.[51] The verse states, "Now the serpent was more clever than all the animals of the field that the Lord God had made" (Genesis 3:1). Archetypally, the cleverness of the nachash is the root of materialist philosophy and intellect as a power unto itself, cut off from that which is higher than intellect, as Reb Noson explains.[52] The Holy Temple is the antithesis of what the Zohar calls the "corruption of the serpent."[53]

Moreover, kabbalistic sources point out that the gematria of nachash  / serpent is the same as that of Mashiach / Messiah.[54]

Nun = 50
Chet = 8
Shin = 300
Total = 358

Mem = 40
Shin = 300
Yud = 10
Chet = 8
Total = 358

This is because the Mashiach brings about the tikkun of the serpent and of our conventionally warped way of thinking.[lv] He can do so because he has slaughtered the "serpent" within himself, transforming the very epitome of selfishness to pure altruism. He is thus empowered to similarly elevate the rest of the world.

The Mysterious Guest

Chayei Moharan, Sippurim Chadashim ("New Stories") 85

First day of Chanukah 5569 / 1808, in the evening after lighting the first candle
A visitor came into a house and asked the head of the house, "From where do you obtain a living?"

            "I don't have a steady livelihood at home," his host replied. "However, the world provides me with what I need to live."
            The guest asked him, "What do you study?"
            The host answered him.
They continued conversing, until soon they were engaged in a true heart to heart discussion. The host began to feel an intense longing and yearning to reach a certain level of holiness. "I will teach you," said the guest.
            The host was surprised. He began to wonder, "Maybe this isn't a human being at all!" However, he looked again, and saw that the guest was talking to him like a human being.

Immediately afterward he had a strong sense of faith, and he resolved to believe in him. He started calling him "my teacher," and said to him, "First of all, I would like to ask you to teach me how to conduct myself with due respect toward you. Not, I scarcely need add, that I could actually detract from your true honor, God forbid; but even so, it is hard for human beings to be as meticulous as they should be in these matters. That is why I would like you to teach me how to behave with due respect."

            "For the moment, I don't have the time," he replied. "Another time I will come and teach you this. Right now I must go away from here."

            "I also need to learn from you about this," said the host. "How far must I go when I accompany you on your way, as a host is obligated to do when his guests depart?"[lvi]
            "Until just beyond the entrance," he replied.

            The host began to think to himself, "How can I go out with him? Right now I am with him among other people. But if I go out with him alone - who knows who he is?" He questioned him and then told him, "I'm afraid to go out with you."

            "If I can learn with you like this," the visitor retorted, "then now, too, if I wanted to do something to you, who would stop me?"

            The host went with him beyond the entrance. All of a sudden, the visitor seized him and began to fly with him!

            It was cold for the host, so the other took a garment and gave it to him. "Take this garment," he said, "and it will be good for you. You will have food and drink and everything will be good, and you will live in your house." And he flew with him.

            In the midst of this, the host gazed, and suddenly he was in his house. He couldn't believe his own eyes that he was in his house; but he looked, and there he was, speaking with people, and eating and drinking in a normal manner. Then he looked back, and lo and behold, he was flying, as before. Then he looked back and he was in his house. This went on for a long time.

After awhile, he flew down to a valley between two mountains. There, he found a book which contained various combinations of letters: alef, zayin, chet, which is dalet, etc. Vessels were depicted in this book, and inside the vessels were letters. Moreover, inside the vessels were the letters of the vessels, by which one could create such vessels. He felt an intense desire to study this book. 

In the midst of this, he gazed, and lo and behold, he was in his house. Then he gazed, and there he was, in the valley.

He made up his mind to climb the mountain; perhaps he would find an inhabited place there. When he came to the mountain, he saw a golden tree with golden branches standing there. Hanging from the branches were vessels like those depicted in the book, and within those vessels were other vessels by which one could create such vessels. He wanted to take some of the vessels away from there, but he was unable to do so, for they were inextricably entangled in the branches.

In the midst of this, he gazed - and lo and behold, he was in his house. This was most amazing to him. How was this possible? How could he be both here and there at the same time? He wanted to discuss this with other human beings, but how could one speak about such an astounding phenomenon to other people, something that they surely would not believe?

In the midst of this, he looked out the window and saw the same guest. He started begging him to come to him. However, the guest replied, "I don't have time, because I am on my way to you!"

"This itself is a wonder in my eyes!" he cried. "Look, I am right here - what do you mean, that you are on your way to me?"

The guest explained, "The moment you decided to come with me, to accompany me beyond the doorway, I took the neshamah (higher soul) from you and gave you a garment from the Lower Garden of Eden.[lvii] The nefesh (vital spirit) and ru'ach (lower soul) remain with you. Therefore, whenever you attach your thoughts to that place, you are there, and you draw an illumination from that place to yourself. And when you return here - you are here!"

I do not know which world he is from, but this much is certain: it is a world of good.
So far, it is not over, it is not finished.


Before we start skating on thin ice, it must be said that there are no classical commentaries on this story in the Breslov literature. Therefore, all of our remarks are speculative. No doubt, the story lends itself to many other lines of interpretation, as well.

Guest and Host / Ohr Makif and Ohr Pnimi
The "mysterious guest" has at least two levels of meaning: most obviously, he represents the tzaddik. He also represents the ohr makif, or "encompassing light," which in general alludes to the sefirah of Binah.[lviii] This is the level of perception or being that is perpetually beyond one's grasp - for as soon as it is internalized, another ohr makif takes its place.[lix] Thus, Binah is in a constant state of flux.

The Baal Shem Tov relates Binah to orei'ach, the Hebrew word for guest.[lx] Orei'ach (spelled alef-vav-resh-chet) can be divided into ohr-chet, meaning "light of eight." This alludes to the eighth sefirah in ascending order, which is Binah. Whenever one shows hospitality, this creates a channel for internalizing the light of Binah:

The Baal Shem Tov, taught: When a guest arrives, he brings his host Torah insights - for the Torah insights the host receives from Above correspond to the nature of his guests.[lxi]

The guest is a vehicle for the ohr makif. However, every level of perception is an ohr makif in relation to the level below it, which is called ohr pnimi, the "inner" or "manifest light." The ohr pnimi corresponds to the host.

Sixteenth century kabbalist Rabbi Chaim Vital explains that the light of the Chanukah lamp represents Binah, the transcendent level, as it illuminates Z'er Anpin, or "Small Face," which comprises the six lower sefirot that animate the natural order.[lxii] In less technical language: a ray of the limitless "shines" into the finite. Rebbe Nachman's allegory of the guest and the head of the house alludes to this kabbalistic model, as well.

"From where do you obtain a living?"
The guest inquires as to the host's source of livelihood. This is because the tzaddik is the parnes, provider of sustenance. Thus the guest, who represents the tzaddik, is entitled to ask his host this question.

Only two biblical figures are explicitly called "tzaddik": Noah and Joseph. The Midrash explains that both deserved this title because they provided others with food.[lxiii] In Noah's case, he fed the entire world in his ark until the floodwaters subsided; in Joseph's case, he provided grain to all Egypt and its environs. Similarly, the Talmudic tzaddik Rabbi Chanina confers his great spiritual merit upon the world so that all creatures may receive sustenance, even those deemed completely unworthy.[lxiv]

Rebbe Nachman deals with this concept of the tzaddik as provider in many teachings, especially Likutey Moharan II, 7 ("For a Compassionate One Shall Lead Them"). There he states that the world receives livelihood by virtue of the tzaddik, albeit through the fusion of two levels inherent within him. The higher is represented by the tzaddik's "son"; the lower is represented by the tzaddik's "disciple." However, these terms are mean to be taken more symbolically than literally. The perception of the son is expressed by the Ministering Angels who ask: "Where is the place of His glory?" - indicating the transcendent level, the aspect of "not knowing," the ohr makif / encompassing light. The perception of the disciple is related to the antithetical declaration, "His glory fills the world" - indicating the immanent level, "knowledge of God," the ohr pnimi / inner light.

In truth, these two perceptions are one, and each completes the other. Those in the category of the "son," who have attained the higher level ("Where is the place of His glory?"), must be protected from total self-nullification in God's transcendent aspect. They are like holy moths that would readily self-destruct in their compulsion to reach the light. The knowledge that "His glory fills the world" grounds them, creating the possibility of a perception of God. Thus, they may experience the mystic's awe before the infinite mystery of the Divine.

Those in the category of the "disciple," who occupy the lower level ("His glory fills the world"), are protected from total self-nullification in God's immanence. They are like people who immerse in the mikveh and stay under the water too long. These “disciples,” too, must experience awe of God, because the trace of wonderment they are granted - the admixture of "Where is the place of His glory?" - creates the existential distance needed for their perception. Otherwise, everything becomes “white on white,” lacking all contrast.

Thus, process and spiritual growth are made possible through this fusion of the perceptions of God's transcendence and immanence; and livelihood is drawn forth to the world from the tzaddik who has grasped the secret of this dualism, and as such, serves as the channel for God's will to continually create and sustain the world. This is the concept of "tzaddik yesod 'olam . . . the tzaddik is the foundation of the universe" (Proverbs 10:25).

"The world provides me with what I need to live"
Because the ohr pnimi derives its life force from the ohr makif, the host actually receives his livelihood from the guest. However, the host remains unaware of this. All he knows is that somehow his needs are fulfilled. Thus, he replies, "I don't have a steady livelihood at home, but the world provides me with what I need to live."

This answer suggests that either the host lacks initiative, or he fails to appreciate the true source of his sustenance, or both. In Likutey Moharan II, 7, the lesson cited above, Rebbe Nachman says that to be a provider, one must have a certain malkhut, a certain authority (although he seems to use the term in more than one sense), adding "one can't be a shlimazal" - a "loser." If so, what is our host? What is he telling us about himself with his vague reply? At this point in his life, at least, he seems to be a passive sort of fellow. 

            This alludes to the paradigm of how the world was sustained prior to the Giving of the Torah. Rebbe Nachman states in Likutey Moharan II, 78, that before the Torah was given, humanity was involved only in derech eretz, mundane pursuits. From this, the Midrash infers, "Derekh eretz (which can also mean simple human decency) preceded the Torah."[lxv] Since the Torah is the source of life - as it is written, "For they [i.e. the commandments] are your life and the length of your days" (Deuteronomy 30:20) - from whence did the world derive its sustenance? The answer: from God's gratuitous kindness.

            The Talmud states that the twenty-six generations prior to the Giving of the Torah correspond to the twenty-six repetitions of the refrain "for His kindness is everlasting" in Psalm 136.[lxvi] However, the Torah certainly existed prior to its revelation; indeed, the Midrash informs us that all things came into being through the Torah, which precedes creation.[lxvii] The Torah was merely hidden. And where was it hidden? In the Ten Creative Statements recounted in the first chapter of Genesis, with which God continually animates the universe.[lxviii] Thus, our host says that he is sustained "by the world," that is, by the Torah that is hidden in the world, although he does not yet perceive it.

            In this lesson, Rebbe Nachman also identifies the tzaddik as the channel for sustenance. He is the holy "prustok" (peasant or simpleton) who must at times desist from studying or fulfilling the commandments of the Torah in order to engage in mundane activities. At such times he receives vitality from what the Midrash calls the "Treasury of Unearned Gifts," the gratuitous kindness with which God sustained the world prior to the Giving of the Torah.[lxix] Then he, in turn, can confer this gratuitous kindness upon the true simpletons - the rest of us in our present unenlightened state, enabling us to survive until we, too, become worthy of receiving life directly from the holiness of the Torah.

            Perhaps the guest in our Chanukah story is the holy prustok, and the host represents the spiritually ignorant masses that unwittingly receive life and sustenance through him. This is what gives the guest the "right" to inquire as to his host's means of livelihood. The guest wants him to realize that he is being sustained by the tzaddik who is privy to God's Treasury of Unearned Gifts.

"What do you study?"
Torah study, too, is the guest's business, inasmuch as it reflects the influence of Binah / Understanding. The first letter of the Written Torah is the bet of Bereshit ("In the Beginning"); the last letter is the lamed of Yisrael ("Israel"). Together, they spell lev (heart), which the Zohar designates as the seat of Binah / Understanding.[lxx]

A heart to heart discussion
It is said: "Words that come from the heart, enter the heart."[lxxi] Because the guest / tzaddik personifies the heart, he can reach the heart of the other. He channels the ohr makif into the heart of the host, who reciprocates by expressing his longing for greater levels of illumination. This is one of the main benefits of our attachment to tzaddikim.

            Rebbe Nachman once observed, "I have three types of followers: those who come for my shirayim (leftovers);[lxxii] those who come to hear my Torah teachings; and those who are 'baked' in my heart."[lxxiii] Of course, every aspiring follower wants to be in the last category. But how can this be accomplished? Say the Breslover Chasidim, "When the Rebbe is 'baked' in our hearts!" This is implied by the "heart to heart discussion" in our story.

The host began to feel an intense longing and yearning to reach a certain level of holiness
This arousal is due to influence of the guest, who has put the host in touch with the deepest will of the heart: longing and yearning for the holy.

"Maybe this isn't a human being at all!"
Rebbe Nachman taught: "The tzaddik looks like an ordinary human being, but in truth, he is something else completely."[lxxiv] Having transcended the ordinary self, i.e. the historically conditioned personality, he becomes "something else." This is what the host finds unsettling. The holiness and wisdom that rests upon the tzaddik is divine - therefore, his human aspect, like a garment, becomes nullified to that which it clothes. In the words of the Zohar, "The Shekhinah (Divine Presence) speaks through his throat."[lxxv]

The ominous feeling that colors the host's remark is due to his survival instinct: somehow he senses that the tzaddik represents a threat to his existential status quo. Indeed, a little later the mysterious guest remarks, "If I wanted to do something to you, who would stop me?" This is a frightening prospect. However, the dismantling of the "old self," i.e. the historically-conditioned personality, is the necessary precondition for opening the disciple's mind to entirely new vistas of perception: those of the tzaddik. The familiar world must dissolve for one to see things in a new light.

Reb Noson alludes to this with the following analogy:

Before a plant can grow, the seed must be planted in the earth. There it loses its form, after which the new growth sprouts forth. This takes place in the earth, which represents humility. The destruction of the seed reflects the paradigm of nullification in the Infinite Light. Just as the seed must lose its form, we must relinquish our selfhood and attachment to physicality. Then, like a mighty tree, an entirely new way of being can emerge.[lxxvi]

However, he looked again, and saw that the guest was talking to him like a human being.
The host's subsequent observation that the mysterious guest is speaking to him like an ordinary human being may hint to the way the tzaddik must conceal his true nature when interacting with ordinary people. (In Rebbe Nachman's tale "The Master of Prayer," this is symbolized by the disguises the Master of Prayer adopts when he leaves his forest retreat and ventures into the world to converse with people about the meaning of life.) Or it may bespeak the fact that the tzaddik actually possesses two sides: an exalted "non-human" aspect, and a simple, down-to-earth aspect. From a certain point of view, the latter may even be the more important.

I once heard the story of how Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig (1921-1980), of blessed memory, father of my teacher, Rabbi Elazar Mordechai Kenig, became a Breslover Chasid. Prior to his marriage in 1940, Reb Gedaliah lived with his parents in the Givat Shaul neighborhood of Jerusalem. One of their neighbors was Rabbi Chaim Boruch Tarnovsky, a Breslover Chasid. At that time, Reb Gedaliah was more involved in the teachings of Chabad.[lxxvii] However, for a long time he had felt that something was missing from his path of divine service. Eventually he became friendly with his Breslover neighbor, who invited him one afternoon to practice hitbodedut with him in a field not far away. This promised to be something new. So Reb Gedaliah agreed. 

Standing alone in the tall grass, Reb Gedaliah could hear his friend crying out to God in the distance. After an hour, they rejoined and walked back home together. Reb Chaim Boruch's face seemed to shine, as if he were returning from the Garden of Eden! However, when he opened the door of his little apartment, he confronted a very "this-worldly" scene: his wife contending with a crying child, the room in a disheveled state, and unattended pots of food cooking on the stove. Without hesitating, he picked up a broom and began sweeping the floor with the same equanimity as he had exhibited a minute ago in the aftermath of hitbodedut. This is what most impressed Reb Gedaliah. Now he vividly saw that Rebbe Nachman's path not only led to deveykut (attachment to God), but also enabled one to engage in the mundane with greater consciousness and focus.

This reflects the two sides of the tzaddik we have been discussing: the "non-human" level associated with higher spiritual states, and the "human" level associated with the affairs of everyday life. Both are personified by the mysterious guest, who has something to teach the host about each sphere.

"For the moment, I don't have the time . . . Right now I must go away from here."
The guest leaves because there must be a constant interplay between the ohr makif and ohr pnimi in order for the world to endure and evolve, both physically and spiritually. This principle applies to all levels of all "worlds." 

"How far must I go when I accompany you on your way?"
Perhaps this question concerning the honor of the guest is related to Likutey Moharan I, 6, where Rebbe Nachman states that true honor is attained only by self-effacement and teshuvah, return to God. The path of teshuvah has two aspects: ascent to the One, and return to the world and the realm of multiplicity. (This also corresponds to the Reb Chaim Boruch's meditation in the field and subsequent housecleaning in the story above.) As the Zohar states, "Worthy is he who can enter and exit."[lxxviii] That is, one must be adept in ascent and adept in descent.[lxxix] The guest has attained this expertise, and is therefore deserving of honor. Therefore, the host asks how far he should escort him.

"Until the doorway"
A doorway is a very special spot. (Maybe this is why so many people instinctively like to stand in them and converse, oblivious to everyone trying to get in and out!) Among other things, it is where many of us place the Chanukah lamp in order to publicize the miracle. This is because a doorway represents the interface between inner and outer - natural and supernatural, ohr pnimi and ohr makif. The natural order is the "inner aspect," the ohr pnimi; the supernatural realm is the "outer aspect," the ohr makif. The former corresponds to the host, the latter to the guest. Thus, the host must escort his guest beyond the doorway in order to honor his guest, and thereby enter the supernal reality.[lxxx]

            This supernal reality is the aspect of the question of the Ministering Angels, "Where is the place of His glory?" to refer back to Likutey Moharan II, 7. It reflects a concept Rebbe Nachman invokes again and again: "The ultimate knowledge is not knowing."[lxxxi] Knowledge is, by definition, limited by the cognitive power of the knower and the nature of the concept; perception on the transcendental plane is called "not knowing," because it reaches to the Infinite. This is apparent in the host's fearful musing, "Who knows who he is?"

It was cold for the host, so the other took a garment and gave it to him
The host's coldness indicates that if left to rely on his own power and merit, he could not fly. Only by being bound to the guest - the tzaddik - may he rise above nature.

            The host's ability to cope with this new experience is represented by the garment the tzaddik gives him. Rebbe Nachman refers to such a gift in another teaching from Chayei Moharan, where he states that after someone dies, he is brought to a certain synagogue in Jerusalem to be judged by the rabbinical court:

When a dead person is brought there, they bring him in clothing. Sometimes the person's clothes are missing something. One person's garment might be missing a sleeve, another might be missing a piece near the hem, and so forth, all in keeping with his deeds.[lxxxii] The verdict depends on the clothes he wears when he is brought there, and his place is allocated accordingly.

Once a dead man was brought there with no clothes at all. He was completely naked. The verdict was that he should be cast into the "Hollow Sling"[lxxxiii] and destroyed, God forbid, because he was completely naked. However, a certain tzaddik appeared, and took one of his own garments and threw it over this person.

The court asked, "Why are you giving him your garment?" The court objected to this. By what right should the dead man be dressed and thus saved with clothing that did not belong to him?

The tzaddik answered, "I must send this man on a mission for my own purposes, thus I am entitled to dress him in my own garment. We see that sometimes an important nobleman sends his servant to another nobleman, and the servant hesitates to fulfill his master's bidding. His master asks, 'Why haven't you left, as I ordered?' The servant replies, 'I don't have the appropriate clothes for going to that nobleman. He is very great, and it is impossible to go there in clothes that are unbefitting.' The master says, 'Hurry! Take one of my garments, put it on, and run quickly to the nobleman, and do my bidding!' Similarly, I need to send this dead man on a mission of my own, therefore I am giving him one of my garments."

This is how the tzaddik saved the dead man from the bitter punishment of the Hollow Sling. [Rebbe Nachman] told this story to show the great power of the tzaddik to save his followers in the World of Truth.[lxxxiv]

In giving the host a garment, the guest in our story seems to be expressing some sort of "proprietorship" over his new disciple. He confers upon him merit and protects him from harsh judgments. Thus, the host becomes privy to higher perceptions that otherwise would have been beyond his ken.

"You will have food and drink and everything will be good, and you will live in your house."
Rebbe Nachman taught that no tzaddik departs from this world without leaving behind a "blessing" - a channel through which his influence can continue to be conveyed to the world. This blessing is personified by the son or disciple who carries on his mission. (This, too, is discussed in Likutey Moharan II, 7.) Through the son or disciple, the tzaddik attains completeness.

            In our context, the mysterious guest remains in the world through the host. Perhaps this is the mission he entrusts to the host, by virtue of which he may be said to give him a garment.

            Or based on the same lesson, we could interpret this remark as indicating the spiritual transformation of the host. "You will have food and drink and everything will be good…" The very physicality of the host is the garment he receives from the tzaddik, who takes him on his flight through the supernal worlds. Materialism will no longer be misconstrued as an end unto itself, but a "garment" to facilitate an entirely different mode of being: the spiritual life into which the new disciple becomes initiated by the tzaddik.

            All of this is a pelleh in the eyes of the host, something wondrous, beyond our grasp. Physicality and spirituality seem to be two opposites; yet the tzaddik shows that nevertheless they can be brought together.

            The host's condition of flying and then finding himself back in his familiar surroundings goes on "for a long time." It is only the first stage of his journey and his connection to the tzaddik. This may correspond to the World of Yetzirah / Formation, which is the domain of the angels, often metaphorically described as having wings. Then the host reaches the next level, the World of Beriah / Creation, which corresponds to the sefirah of Binah.  

After awhile, he flew down to a valley between two mountains
In the works of the ARI, Binah is related to a particular method of contemplating the Divine Name HaVaYaH. The Name is vowelized with a tzeyre, or "ā" sound, represented by two horizontal points underneath each letter.[lxxxv] These two points allude to the dualistic mode of experience - light vs. darkness, good vs. evil, activity vs. passivity, mercy vs. strict justice, etc. Dualism has its origin (and becomes rectified) in Binah, as Rebbe Nachman states in Likutey Moharan I, 48.

Binah is process. The sages define the "men of understanding (nevonim, a construct of binah)" mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:13, to be "those who can understand one thing from another."[lxxxvi] The inference of one thing from another is also symbolized by two points. In our story, this seems to correspond to the two mountains, between which the host lands after his flight through the World of Yetzirah.

He found a book that contained various combinations of letters
All things come into existence through combinations of letters of the divine speech. Thus, the World of Beriah / Creation / Binah represents the infrastructure of the universe. It is the root of language, the realm of holy letters.

Inside the vessels were letters. Moreover, inside the vessels were the letters of the vessels, by which one could create such vessels
The "one thing from another" quality is also indicated by the allegory of the letters in the vessels, etc. That the vessels contain the letters by which they can be created indicates that this is the World of Beriah / Creation.

He felt an intense desire to study this book
This suggests the teaching of the Tikuney Zohar: "Binah / Understanding resides in the heart, enabling the heart to comprehend."[lxxxvii] The quality of Binah is expressed by the host's desire to understand the essence of things.[lxxxviii]

He gazed, and lo and behold, he was in his house. Then he gazed, and there he was in the valley
He returns to the mundane world, the World of 'Asiyah / Action, but subsequently ascends to an even higher level. This reflects the kabbalistic principle of a "descent for the sake of ascent." By doing so, one elevates fallen "holy sparks," i.e. one spiritually refines the world. Having accomplished this, the host can now attain greater heights.

He made up his mind to climb the mountain; perhaps he would find an inhabited place there
He decides to climb the mountain (note that it is now one mountain, not two) in order to transcend dualism completely. Although still in the World of Beriah / Creation, he now begins his ascent toward the World of Atzilut / Emanation, the highest of the four worlds. Atzilut corresponds to the sefirah of Chokhmah (Wisdom). The mountain also may allude to the site of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which corresponds to the supernal "Holy Temple" at the apogee of the World of Beriah.[lxxxix]

            His search for an inhabited place (yishuv) suggests cessation, the absence of movement and change. The Creator is called "He Who sits (yoshev) in Heaven" (Psalms 2:4), beyond temporality and change. This also refers to yishuv ha-da'at, the "settled mind" attained through contemplation and hitbodedut.[xc]

A similar allusion may be found in Rebbe Nachman's tale, "The Lost Princess," where in the course of his wanderings in the desert in search of the king's daughter, the Viceroy comes across a side path. "Since I have traveled in this desert for so long and still not found her," the Viceroy muses, "let me try this side path. Maybe it will lead to an inhabited place (yishuv)." In Breslov tradition, this "side path" is that of hitbodedut.[xci]

When he came to the mountain, he saw a golden tree with golden branches
Gold is usually associated with Binah, as the Zohar states explicitly.[xcii] This is consistent with the tree bearing vessels that contain other vessels, etc. "Vessels" is another term for the sefirot. Thus, gold includes all ten sefirot in a "pre-natal state,"[xciii] as it were, for Binah is the feminine principle, the “mother” of creation, the cosmic womb.

The tree is one of the most basic models used to describe the array of the sefirot. Thus, by encountering the golden tree, the host is envisioning (albeit on a lower level) the sefirot of the World of Atzilut / Emanation. To be sure, the sefirot are operative on all planes, since everything is the product of their interaction. However, the Zohar states that "lights and vessels" are one in Atzilut.[xciv] That is, in Atzilut there is no split between inner and outer, giver and receiver, etc., for all is one. The "ten sefirot of nothingness" in the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation) allude to the same concept. The host seems to be glimpsing the lights of Atzilut as they are refracted through the World of Beriah / Creation, analogous to the sefirah of Binah.[xcv] Otherwise, he would be so completely nullified within the divine light that he would be incapable of contemplation.

The golden tree also may allude to the Menorah or candelabrum in the Holy Temple (which we shall discuss in greater detail in the final chapter, "The Chandelier of Imperfections").[xcvi] The Menorah was fashioned from one unit of gold, and not made of separate components. Thus it is a symbol of unity. This is what our intrepid disciple now encounters on his spiritual journey.

Hanging from the branches were vessels like those depicted in the book, and within those vessels were other vessels by which one could create such vessels
The "book" he discovered in the valley probably corresponds to the Torah in written form, while the golden tree on the mountain corresponds to the Torah on the supernal plane. As stated above, the Torah is related to Binah, since it begins with the letter bet and ends with the letter lamed; together they spell lev (heart), the locus of Binah.

            Another possibility is that the book and golden tree correspond to two aspects of the "secrets of Torah." The ARI distinguishes between understanding the Kabbalah at the conceptual level and at the level of direct perception.[xcvii] Perhaps the book represents these mysteries at the level of ideas, and the tree, at the experiential level.

He wanted to take some of the vessels away from there, but he was unable to do so, for they were inextricably entangled in the branches
The inseparability of the vessels from the tree also indicates the unitary aspect of the World of Beriah, which it receives from the World of Atzilut. This unity had not been apparent to him when he saw the pictures of the vessels in the book. Rebbe Nachman mentions that they are the same vessels; however, their manifestation differs according to each spiritual level.

In the midst of this, he gazed - and lo and behold, he was in his house. This was most amazing to him . . . How could he be both here and there at the same time? He wanted to discuss this with other human beings
One might assume that the host needs to speak with others about his amazing experience in order to gain affirmation, to feel more grounded in the familiar. On a deeper level, though, his wish may stem from his ascent to the supernal plane. He has already glimpsed the World of Oneness, which is the repository of the potential for every human being to experience the transcendental.

In the midst of this, he looked out the window and saw the same guest. He started begging him to come to him. However, the guest replied, "I don't have time, because I am on my way to you!"
The host sees the guest through a window - i.e., the guest is on the "outside," while he remains on the "inside." There is a division between the two, yet they see each other. The window suggests that the two dimensions intersect.

The host is in the "lower world," while the guest is ascending to the "supernal world" - to see the host. How is this possible? The guest explains this paradox to his disciple:

"The moment you decided to come with me, to accompany me beyond the doorway, I took the neshamah (higher soul) from you and gave you a garment from the Lower Garden of Eden. The nefesh (vital spirit) and ru'ach (lower soul) remain with you. Therefore, whenever you attach your thoughts to that place, you are there, and you draw an illumination from that place to yourself. And when you return here - you are here!"
The "Lower Garden of Eden" is the domain of the lower angels that traverse the worlds of Asiyah / Action and Beriah / Creation. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero describes its nature and purpose: "The Lower Garden of Eden is reminiscent of this physical world, since the soul has not yet been purified of its attachments to mundane involvements and pleasures."[xcviii] He also states: "The entire purpose of this [Lower] Garden of Eden is to prepare the soul by slowly but surely divesting it of physical attachments and initiating into the spiritual dimension, until it is ready to receive sublime perceptions and ascend to its source."[xcix] Having received this garment from the Lower Garden of Eden, meant to wean him away from his material attachments and preoccupations, the host is now able to live in this world and the supernal world simultaneously. All this is the doing of the guest, i.e. the tzaddik.

I do not know which world he is from
This is indicated by the term "guest"; he is not a "householder," not a fixed entity. This, too, is an aspect of the ohr makif: constant process, constant spiritual development.

This much is certain: it is a world of good
Rebbe Nachman once observed that there is a sort of good that exists in opposition to evil. However, the divine essence of things is good without a dualistic counterpoint; we only borrow the word "good" provisionally in order to describe it, because in truth it cannot be named. [c]  This would seem to be the sort of good that Rebbe Nachman indicates here.

So far, it is not over, it is not finished
Since God is Infinite, there is no end to the path that leads to Him. Yet He is right here with us in this world, right now.


1. Spiritual ascent is only possible through attachment to a true tzaddik who can guide us on the path of return to God.
2. The beginning of the path is extremely difficult; we may be beset by all sorts of fears and doubts and confusions. However, all obstacles will vanish if we persevere.
3. Don’t try to figure out the tzaddik. This is impossible, because he lives on a completely different plane, where things work by different rules. Thus, he is a "mysterious guest" in the world we take to be real.
4. The process and the path are characterized by ratzo vi-shov, "advance and retreat," constant ups and downs. This is how it must be. But the ups do not remain the same ups, and the downs do not remain the same downs.
5. God is Infinite; therefore, the path has no end; the journey is never over. Yet at the same time, we have already reached our goal. God is right here: "The entire earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah 6:8).
6. The path of the true tzaddikim is the most beautiful thing in the world. Therefore, we shouldn't waste our days in hesitation and confusion, but accept the tzaddik's invitation to fly with him. It only takes one step to cross the threshold.


More Guesswork
Rebbe Nachman mentions that the book the host discovers in the valley between two mountains contained various letter combinations: "alef, zayin, chet, which is dalet…" What is the meaning of this cryptic reference?

Many years ago, a scholarly friend told me that he once came across an answer to this mystery in a kabbalistic text that discusses the kavanot (mystical meditations) for the "Shem'a" ("Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One [Echad]," Deuteronomy 6:4 - the fundamental declaration of faith). Unfortunately, he didn’t remember the exact source, and so far I have been unable to track it down. However, the connection to the Shem'a is highly suggestive, even without the kabbalistic source.

The meditation on the Shem'a recommended by Rabbi Yosef Karo in his Shulchan Arukh / Code of Jewish Law[ci] analyses the word Echad / One (spelled alef, chet, dalet). He subdivides the letter chet (8) into alef (1) and zayin (7), explaining that we should contemplate that God is One (symbolized by the letter alef) in the seven heavens (zayin) and the earth (alef). Seven and one make eight, which is the letter chet. This gives us our alef, zayin and chet. The last letter of Echad is dalet. The Talmud states that one should prolong the recitation of both the chet and dalet.[cii] This gives us our "chet, which is dalet." Thus, the four letters Rebbe Nachman mentions may be related to the meditation on the Shem'a.

In the morning communal prayer service, the Shem'a and its blessings are found in the section which the kabbalists associate with the World of Beriah / Creation. This might be the reason why Rebbe Nachman mentions these letters specifically at this point in his story. The host is now exploring the World of Beriah.

"So far, it is not over, it is not finished"
This is not the only unfinished story in Rebbe Nachman's repertoire, nor is it the best known one. "The Lost Princess," the opening tale in his Sippurei Ma'asiyot, describes the disappearance of a king's daughter, and how the royal viceroy sets off in search of her. An allegory of exile and redemption on both the collective and personal levels, this mysterious narrative culminates in the viceroy being carried by a storm wind to a pearl castle atop a golden mountain, where the princess is hidden. Here, too, Rebbe Nachman breaks off without revealing the ending - but he assures us that in the end, the viceroy succeeds in rescuing her. The World of Beriah is compared to a "day that is entirely long."[ciii] It is endless. Therefore, the rescue must be accomplished by the transcendence of time and process altogether. This is associated with the highest of the four worlds, Atzilut, the "World of Thought," or pure consciousness. Rebbe Nachman tells us that this realm can be entered only through silence.[civ]

The Chandelier of Imperfections

The verse states, "The Rock, His work is perfect" (Deuteronomy 32:4). Yet we experience a world of imperfections: everything is getting stronger or weaker, growing or decaying, being born or dying. Everything is incomplete and of necessity exists within a greater matrix of mutual interdependency. Thus, everything must use and be used by other elements in the system.

When we dare to look inside ourselves, we immediately confront our shortcomings and weaknesses, the inadequacy of our wisdom, the limits of our talents and abilities. "Why did God create such a world?" we cannot help but wonder. God's wisdom is perfect. Why didn't He make a perfect world?

There is a rather mysterious parable from Rebbe Nachman that deals with this question. After presenting a translation of the parable, we will explore some of its possible meanings in our search for an answer.
The Chandelier of Imperfections
Sippurei Ma'asiyot, Additional Stories

Once a son left his father and remained with others in faraway lands for many years. After a time he returned to his father and boasted that he had mastered the great art of making a chandelier.[cv] He told his father to gather all the local craftsmen so that he could show them his skill.

His father invited all the masters of the craft to witness the expertise that his son had attained during the time of his apprenticeship. However, when the son took out the lamp that he had made, they all saw that it was quite inferior. The father went to them and asked them to tell him the truth. They were forced to tell him the truth that it was very poor.
Later the son boasted to his father, "Didn't they see the wisdom of my craft?" The father replied that it was not beautiful in their eyes.

The son retorted, "On the contrary, through this lamp I have demonstrated my skill. I have shown each of them his shortcoming. In this lamp, I have included the deficiencies of all the local masters of the art. You did not realize that one considered one part ugly, but another part very well made. The next one, however, considered the first part beautiful, while for him the next part was poorly made. The same is true of them all. What one considers bad, the other considers good, and vice versa. I made this lamp out of imperfections and nothing else - in order to show them all that they lack perfection. Each one has a shortcoming, since what is beautiful to one is deficient to the next. However, in truth, I can make a perfect lamp."

[Rebbe Nachman then remarked:]

If people knew all the deficiencies and lacks of a thing, they would know its essence, even if they had never seen it before.

"Great are God's deeds" (Psalms 111:2). No man is identical with another. Adam possessed all possible human forms - that is, the singular Hebrew word for man, adam, includes all of these forms. The same is true of everything else. All luminaries are included in the single word "light (ohr)," and similarly the rest, the entire array of creation. Even the leaves of a tree, no two leaves are exactly alike.

[Reb Noson adds:] Rebbe Nachman spoke of this at length. He said, "There are certain types of wisdom attainable in this world from which person could live exclusively, without eating or drinking." He then spoke at length of this wondrous and awesome concept.


Perfection and Imperfection
Rebbe Nachman asserts, "If people knew all the deficiencies and lacks (chesronot vi-ha-nimn'aim) of a thing, they would know its essence." This seems to be the key to understanding the Chandelier of Imperfections. How does this axiom work? What does it really mean?

First we must consider the meaning of a "deficiency" (chisaron). This may denote something that is wrong, or something that is incomplete. Indeed, it can mean both. The sages of the Talmud state that one can attain such a level of repentance that one's transgressions become meritorious deeds.[cvi] We would be hard pressed to say that the deed retroactively changes. What is past is past. We assume that the deed does not change (although God is all powerful and can do whatever He wants); however, the context of the deed does change. Now that one has accomplished such a high degree of repentance, the transgression no longer estranges one from God, but serves the purpose of bringing one closer to God. The "wrong" is no longer divorced from the purpose of life, but reconnected to it. Given this, the words "wrong" and "incomplete" may be synonymous. That is, lack of completion inevitably goes hand in hand with error.

Another example of this is the rabbinic saying: "If you have acquired knowledge (da'at), what do you lack? And if you lack knowledge (da'at), what have you acquired?"[cvii] Da'at represents a type of completeness, a perceptual connection to God. Its lack will inevitably entail imperfection.

Since the king's son fashioned a lamp out of the deficiencies of the master craftsmen, perhaps the object of the parable is that the work of the other craftsmen lacked completeness, and therefore was in error.

This, incidentally, is why observing the Sabbath brings absolution for the sin of idolatry. The Sabbath represents wholeness, being "last in deed, first in thought,"[cviii] the culmination of the seven days of creation; idolatry represents mistaking a limited power for the Ultimate Power, a part for the whole. Therefore, "one who observes the Sabbath is forgiven for all his sins, even if he worshipped idols like the generation of Enosh."[cix] The Sabbath attests to God's Oneness, within which idolatry, which is an expression of incompleteness, dissolves and is nullified.

Similarly, this is the meaning of the tashlikh rite performed on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, when according to the kabbalists, all creation returns to its Divine Source and is reborn. We symbolically cast our sins, or deficiencies, into a body of water, representing the Sea of Oneness. Underlying this custom is the principle that when the whole is revealed - the ultimate context - all the parts retroactively fall into place and become complete. This may be what Rebbe Nachman alluded to when he declared: "There is a way in which everything can be transformed to the good."[cx]

The son asserts that his lamp was made entirely of deficiencies, yet each craftsman found beautiful the same component that one of his colleagues recognized as lacking. Why did they have differing views? This demonstrated that they possessed different levels of wisdom, but none possessed completeness, none had attained perfection.

As the saying goes, "One man's ceiling is another man's floor." There is a hierarchy of wisdom, symbolized by the various craftsmen. The "ceiling" of each craftsman's wisdom is the "floor" of the next craftsman's wisdom, and so on. However, to grasp the true nature of the entire structure would require the attainment of absolute wisdom, a truth beyond all relativism.

Rebbe Nachman states that through the deficiencies of a thing, one may know its essence. The deficiencies are like a shadow cast by this essence. Just as a shadow attests to the existence of the object that casts it, so does imperfection attest to perfection.

In a similar vein, the Baal Shem Tov explains that when evil results in good, it retroactively becomes a "throne" for the good.[cxi] (This is apparently related to the teaching of our sages cited above that the sins of one who is sincerely repentant turn into merits.) God has "hard-wired" creation so that the negative ultimately serves the positive, and thus becomes transmuted to the positive. The Chandelier of Imperfections symbolizes the dualistic realm - yet it is the "shadow" of the perfect lamp, which symbolizes the level beyond dualism, the level of God's Oneness. This world’s imperfection in its entirety is the shadow of the transcendental. This, too, may be why the son does not reveal his perfect lamp: it cannot be seen. At least, not the same way as the Chandelier of Imperfections.

To return to our original question: why didn't God create a perfect world? Put another way, what purpose does dualism serve?

One answer is: in order for us to "negate the negative," to borrow the insightful expression of contemporary Breslov teacher, Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Gottlieb. True perfection, which belongs to God alone, is a “given”; but it is highly concealed. Our task is to remove the various illusions and erroneous ideas that cover it over. As the Zohar states, “When the Other Side is quelled, the Divine Glory ascends.”[cxii] We cannot truly appreciate the positive until we have encountered the negative and seen through it. This is the “negation of the negative.” Moreover, in so doing, we become “partners with God in creation.”[cxiii] Because the attainment of this perception is the reason why God created us.

This may be what Rebbe Nachman wishes to teach us in saying that knowing the deficiencies of a thing leads to the knowledge of its true nature. Through contemplating imperfection, we - who, by definition, are parts of an unseen unity - can intuit the perfection of that whole. That perfection is the essence of reality.

All of creation is truly a path that leads to this realization; even the stones and ruts in the road serve their purpose. This is why in Judaism night precedes day, and why in the account of Genesis, darkness precedes light. Without "negating the negative," the positive could not be revealed. We would have no frame of reference by which to conceive it. The "negation of the negative" thus enables us to find our way through the spiritual maze of creation, which in the Zohar’s famous phrase only exists for the sake of knowing God (be-gin de-ishtimod’in lei).[cxiv]

The Menorah
What is the meaning of the chandelier, or more literally the "suspended Menorah?" And why is it specifically made by this "son," the master craftsman?

We may venture to answer these questions, too, by considering the cryptic remarks Rebbe Nachman made after telling this parable, and in addition by considering some of his other teachings about the Menorah - the seven-branched candelabrum in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and later in the Holy Temple.

To recap Rebbe Nachman's postscript:

"Great are God's deeds" (Psalms 111:2). No man is identical with another. Adam possessed all possible human forms; that is, the singular Hebrew word for man, adam, includes all of these forms. The same is true of everything else. All luminaries are included in the single word "light," and similarly the rest, the entire array of creation. Even the leaves of a tree, no two leaves are exactly alike. Rebbe Nachman spoke of this at length. He said, "There are certain types of wisdom attainable in this world from which person could live exclusively, without eating or drinking…"

There is another verse in Psalms that echoes the phrase "Great are God's deeds." Not only are God's deeds great and wondrous, but they also reflect God's wisdom: "Mah rabu ma'asekha Hashem, kulam bi-chokhmah 'asitah . . . How abundant are your works, O God! You have made them all with wisdom" (Psalms 104:24). According to the Talmudic sages, the Menorah, too, was created by divine act.[cxv] Thus, Rebbe Nachman's remarks suggest that the Menorah is at once a symbol of God's deeds, which encompass all of creation, and His wisdom, which is the “blueprint” and fundament of creation.

According to the Tikuney Zohar, the Menorah represents Divine Intellect - "Menarta da reisha . . . The Menorah is the head."[cxvi] In Likutey Moharan I, 21, Rebbe Nachman explains this to mean that it is possible for Divine Intellect to be grasped by man via a process of purification. The seven branches of the Menorah correspond to the seven apertures of the head: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and one mouth. By purifying these "vessels" for one's inner spiritual faculties - that is, by ridding oneself of all evil traits - one may attain Divine Intellect and become a "living Menorah."[cxvii]

However, like the Menorah in the Holy Temple, this “Menorah consciousness” is a divine gift. One can exert oneself to the utmost - and indeed one must - but one cannot storm heaven's gate. The Gatekeeper alone decides who will enter! Thus, the Menorah was miraculously formed by God through the agency of Moses. In the words of the Talmudic sages, Moses put the gold into the fire, and the Menorah emerged perfectly formed of itself.[cxviii]

Moreover, it was fashioned from one piece of gold, and was not a construct.[cxix] The Menorah represents wholeness and what we could call “unity-in-diversity.” How so? The seven branches correspond to the seven days of the week, representing the paradigm of multiplicity; its formation from one unit of gold alludes to the mystery of the encompassing Divine Oneness. Reb Noson explains: "The Menorah was formed in this manner in order to express the light of truth: to reveal that all diversity derives from God's simple unity."[cxx]

The requirement that the Menorah be made from gold is also significant. Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch (1704-1772), relates gold to the prima materia. As such, it is a vehicle for Chokhmah, divine wisdom. (Gold is usually associated with Binah, understanding, which is figuratively the "mother" of the seven lower sefirot. However, in this context, the Maggid apparently wishes to stress the concept of "unity-in-diversity" which is our present concern, as well. Therefore, he alludes to Chokhmah as it is garbed by Binah.)[cxxi] Within the hierarchy of creation, Chokhmah is the highest level. It is the hyle discussed by Nachmanides and others, which came into existence on the first day of creation, and from which all subsequent levels of creation derive.[cxxii]

Rebbe Nachman mentions this in Sichot HaRan 40 (presented above in slightly abbreviated form as "The Wheel of Transformation"), where he expounds upon the dreidel, or toy top with which children play on Chanukah, as a symbol of transformation and redemption. At the end of that teaching, Reb Noson, who edited Rebbe Nachman's works, adds that the hyle corresponds to Chokhmah. Citing the Zohar, he divides Chokhmah into "koach-mah," literally, the "power of what," meaning the primordial Nothingness.[cxxiii] This reality transcends all division. And it may be grasped - but only by he who has risen above his sense of separate existence, or ego. This is the tzaddik, who, in having overcome his negative traits, becomes a vehicle for the Divine. (In Rebbe Nachman's works, one who attains this completely is called tzaddik emet, or "true tzaddik" - personifying the "point of truth among the tzaddikim."[cxxiv])

The creative aspect of Chokhmah is underscored by the kabbalistic teaching that compares Chokhmah to a seed: a simple, unitary point. Just as a seed contains the entire tree in potentia, so Chokhmah contains all manifest forms.[cxxv] In the Divine Name HaVaYaH (yud-heh-vav-heh) this sefirah is represented by the first letter, yud. The smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, yud is but a single point; however, it bears the numerical value of ten. This alludes to the paradigm of "ten lights in one vessel," or ten sefirot in one.[cxxvi] The Name HaVaYaH first appears in the Torah at the beginning of the second chapter of Genesis, which describes the creation of man.

Chokhmah is also closely related to the term adam.[cxxvii] The Zohar lists four terms for man, of which adam is the highest, and refers to the faculty of wisdom or intellect.[cxxviii]  As Rebbe Nachman mentions in Likutey Moharan II, 82, the word adam has the gematria (numerical value) of mah (45) - "what?" - indicating nullification of ego.[cxxix] Thus, only a person who has overcome the ego deserves to be called "adam." Only he has truly attained wisdom; only he is a true human being.

The Baal Shem Tov explains this as follows:

The Talmud states: "Who is a fool? One who loses what (mah) he is given."[cxxx]

That is to say: The word adam has the gematria of mah ("what" -- in the sense of no ego: “What is it?”). This is the Divine Name YHVH when expanded with alefs, which are conferred upon it from the supernal worlds.[cxxxi]

Yud = yud (10), vav (6), dalet (4)
Heh = heh (5), alef (1)
Vav = vav (6), alef (1), vav (6)
Heh = heh (5), alef (1)
Total = 45

And "a person (adam) cannot sin unless a spirit of folly enters him."[cxxxii] [Thus, having lost his wisdom, he forfeits his stature as adam. He has lost touch with the Divine Name YHVH and the paradigm of mah.]

When one cleaves to the Holy One, blessed be He, Who is the ruler of the world, he becomes adam. The Holy One, blessed be He, effects countless constrictions of His light through countless worlds to bring about this unification with man, who otherwise could not bear His radiance. For his part, man must divest himself of all physicality [i.e. physical desire and dependency] to the point that he can ascend through all the worlds and attain unity with God, until he becomes utterly nullified. Then he is called "adam."[cxxxiii]

This “unity” is the level of existential wholeness where there is no subject-object split, no sense of self. Thus, Moses, the "humblest of men," could declare to his antagonists, "And what (mah) are we?” (Exodus 16:8). The kabbalists render this, “And we are mah (nothing)."

The Tikuney Zohar tells us: "The soul of Moses extends from generation to generation, from one tzaddik to the next."[cxxxiv] Thus, a popular kabbalistic song that praises the legendary first century sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (whose disciples composed the Zohar) declares: " 'Let us make man' was said referring to you!" That awesome tzaddik who has reached the very essence of the soul - and in so doing, the essence of all souls - is an extension of Moses, the "humblest man on the face of the earth." As such, he, too, is called "adam."[cxxxv]

The unity of creation in its root, namely Chokhmah, is also reflected by the fact that Adam was created as a singular being. True, Eve was included within him - as an unconscious Siamese twin, according to the sages[cxxxvi] - but he is nevertheless described as alone. (And aside from fulfilling the commandment of preserving the species, it is the purpose of man and wife to regain this primal unity through the marital relationship.) Evidently this is why Rebbe Nachman made those seemingly desultory remarks about the greatness of God's deeds, the singularity of Adam, and the paradox that all separate forms, not one of which is exactly the same as another, proceed from a single point of origin. That is, duality and multiplicity come from the Divine Oneness. Like the Menorah, whose seven branches are made from one piece of gold, this is a pelleh - a wonder that exceeds human reason.

Rebbe Nachman also relates this to the paradigm of one light and many lights. Light is another metaphor for wisdom, which is bound up with the light-giving Menorah. As Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (“RaMaK”) states, "The Menorah represents the Shekhinah (Divine Presence) . . . which receives the light of Chokhmah . . . This is why the Menorah was positioned on the south [side of the sanctuary]; for 'one who desired Chokhmah would pray facing the south.' "[cxxxvii] This, too, supports the notion that the Menorah is a vehicle for the light of Chokhmah, causing it to spiritually illuminate the world.

In stating that the Menorah represents the Shekhinah / Divine Presence, RaMaK implies that it is a vehicle for the sefirah of Malkhut / Kingship. However, this may not be a true contradiction. A cognomen for Malkhut is Chokhmah Tata'ah, "Lower Wisdom," in that it channels the light of Chokhmah Ila'ah, "Supernal Wisdom," to the lowest plane. Therefore, RaMaK adds: "This is why the Menorah was positioned on the south [side of the sanctuary]; for 'one who desired Chokhmah would pray facing the south.' " The Menorah / Malkhut embodies the mystery of oneness-in-multiplicity, and shines the light of apprehending this mystery to the world. This is the key point of the Chokhmah Tata’ah / Lower Wisdom.
This concept may be better understood in context of another teaching of Rebbe Nachman. He states:

"Every universe [in the hierarchy of worlds] and every created thing has a unique form and structure. For example, the form of the lion differs from that of the sheep, both in its abilities and anatomy. This also applies within the lion species: each one is different from the rest. The distinctions between all creatures are implicit in the letters and combinations of letters [with which they are named in the Torah]. One who is worthy of understanding the Torah can understand its allusions to the distinctions between all creatures - and he can understand their unity, that is, their point of origin and final destiny; for the beginning and end of all things is undifferentiated Oneness. "[cxxxviii]

That is, Chokhmah Ila'ah / Supernal Wisdom.  Reb Noson relates this teaching to an informal talk he heard from Rebbe Nachman shortly before the Sabbath during Chanukah of 1805. At that time, the Rebbe said:

All forms and characteristics of all humanity were included in the word "adam" recorded in the Torah when God said, "Let us make man (adam)" (Genesis 1:26).  When God uttered the word "adam," man was created. The diversity of the entire human race was included in this word. Similarly, with the word "animal" recounted in the Torah's description of creation the diverse forms of all animals were created, and thus with all creatures.

Reb Noson then paraphrases Rebbe Nachman's remarks appended to the parable of the Chandelier of Imperfections, concerning how all humanity was included in the word "man," all lights in the word "light," and all leaves in the word "tree."[cxxxix] The singularity of the three things Rebbe Nachman mentions – man, light, and tree – indicates the paradigm of Oneness. This is the level beyond time, beyond process. Thus, Rebbe Nachman concludes his remarks with the declaration that there are certain types of wisdom that preclude the need to eat or drink. Eating and drinking are part of the process of deriving sustenance. When the tikkun of creation is complete, this need will no longer exist. Like Moses who neither ate nor drank during the forty days and nights he stood on Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, one who stands at the fountainhead of creation derives life directly from its source. In the hour of his loftiest spiritual ascent, the tzaddik emet is sustained by Chokhmah alone.[cxl]

The Son and the Master Craftsmen
Our assumption is that the son is the tzaddik emet, whom Rebbe Nachman relates to the term ben (son) in Likutey Moharan II, 2, and elsewhere. This is the paradigm of Moses, "master of all prophets." The other craftsmen are the other tzaddikim, the paradigm of the prophets inferior to Moses.

Why must the son relativize the wisdom of the rest?
He must do so because their wisdom collectively represents the present state of creation, which by definition is an aggregate of things imperfect and incomplete. Their wisdom is bound up with the hierarchy of nature, with time and process, whereas the wisdom of the son, or tzaddik emet, surpasses all this. Thus, only the son can make a "perfect Menorah"; that is, only the transcendent level of wisdom the son has attained can rectify all imperfection.

"In truth, I can make a perfect lamp," he boasts.

How? What is the basis of this claim? By knowing the "negative," as it were, the son still has not overtly demonstrated the "positive," i.e. the Divine Oneness. Nevertheless, by virtue of containing all imperfections, his lamp alludes to Oneness - it is the “flip side of the coin.” And, in fact, it represents the path to the perception of Oneness. The negation of the negative is the springboard by which one grasps the positive.

Reb Noson preserved another startling declaration from Rebbe Nachman that addresses the theme in our parable:

I know forms of wisdom that cannot be revealed. If I were to begin to disclose a modicum of this wisdom, people would be able to live by the delight of comprehending it without eating or drinking. The entire world would cease due to expiry of the soul, from longing to hear my wisdom. People would relinquish this life because of the wondrous sweetness and delight of the wisdom I would reveal. However, I cannot reveal this wisdom to mankind. As soon as I begin to converse with people, I want to hear what the other has to say - for in his words I hear sublime things. Therefore, this great and awesome wisdom cannot be revealed.[cxli]

If Rebbe Nachman possessed such wondrous wisdom, what could he possibly receive from others, who occupy a lower spiritual rung? Perhaps this is another case of the question being the answer. Precisely by contemplating imperfect wisdom, the tzaddik can intuit perfection. With his silence, he induces the sublime from the seeming ordinariness of the other person's words.

This is why the son must "put down" the rest, and perhaps why Rebbe Nachman made his seemingly self-glorifying remarks, cited by Reb Noson in Chayei Moharan ("The Life of Our Master, Rebbe Nachman"). For example: “All of the tzaddikim are nothing compared to me – and I am more ‘nothing’ than all of them!”[cxlii]

The Chandelier of Imperfections, symbolizing the present state of reality, is made of the other craftsmen's deficiencies. At the same time, their lack of recognition of the son's superiority is the precondition for this state of creation, which is characterized by incompletion and process. That is, as long as the highest wisdom is hidden, the process of creation is operative; and by implication, as long as the true master craftsman - the son, who is the tzaddik emet - is hidden, and the other tzaddikim do not recognize his wisdom, there is a Chandelier of Imperfections to contemplate.[cxliii]

The tzaddikim are the "foundation of the world,"[cxliv] in that they take responsibility for its spiritual elevation. However, those who have not reached the highest level cannot complete this task. The ultimate tikkun depends upon the tzaddik emet.  This, too, is why various sections of Rebbe Nachman's "Tale of the Seven Beggars" describe a debate among various masters and the mysterious beggar who surpasses them all. As Rebbe Nachman Goldstein of Tcherin points out in his commentary on this story, the tikkun of everything depends on the lesser tzaddikim recognizing their limitations and acknowledging the beggar who alone can rectify everything, namely the tzaddik emet.[cxlv]

Perceiving the Perfect Chandelier
One may still ask: what does this debate in Rebbe Nachman's parable have to do with us? Who among us can even be counted among the "local craftsmen," who according to our line of interpretation are also tzaddikim? Yet as Reb Noson states in his Introduction to Likutey Moharan, Rebbe Nachman's teachings are relevant to everyone. There is something we, too, can learn from the "Chandelier of Imperfections." Like the local craftsmen, we must recognize that only the tzaddik emet can show us our deficiency, and bring us to our tikkun ha-neshamah (healing of the soul). The mission of this unique tzaddik is to enable everyone to behold the perfect chandelier - and in so doing, to become transmuted to it.

This concept pervades Rebbe Nachman's writings. For example, he once remarked, "When people become close to the tzaddik emet, they taste the Garden of Eden; for the holy Zohar states that the tzaddik is the 'tender of the garden.' "[cxlvi] This implies that to some degree, they become "part" of the tzaddik, and therefore can share something of his state of being and divine perception. Like the unity the Menorah, this perception of God’s unity utterly transcends ordinary intellectual constructs. The Rebbe further discusses the fusion of the minds of the tzaddik and his disciples in Likutey Moharan I, 129, his discourse on the verse that describes the Land of Israel as a "land that consumes her inhabitants" (Numbers 13:32). That is, just as food becomes transmuted to the nature of the one who consumes it, so the inhabitants of the Land of Israel become assimilated to the land’s holiness. The "land" is also analogous to the tzaddik. When one establishes a connection to the tzaddik and diligently follows his guidance in order to come closer to God, one becomes transmuted to the very nature of the tzaddik.

In the same vein, Rebbe Nachman once told his followers: "Anyone can reach my level and become exactly like me. The main thing on which everything depends is sincere effort and devotion."[cxlvii] This, too, suggests that an essential connection is made between master and disciple. One becomes "exactly like" the tzaddik. To be sure, one must do one's share of the avodah, the hard work. However, as the Talmudic sages observe, "The prisoner cannot free himself."[cxlviii] In addition to laboring in divine service, one must bind oneself to the tzaddik emet.[cxlix] As Rebbe Nachman also said:

When one does not bind himself to the tzaddik emet, all his devotions are like the contortions of a person trying to imitate someone else - like a monkey imitating a human . . . There is really no way to serve God except through the tzaddik emet.[cl]

Through attachment to the tzaddik emet, one gets in touch with his very essence - the "spark" of the tzaddik emet within himself - and no longer serves God in a state of spiritual sleep, or with self-serving motives. According to Rebbe Nachman, one who fails to do so will just go through the motions of divine service, studying Torah in a state of constricted consciousness and praying in a state of constricted consciousness, like a monkey imitating a human. He lacks true intellect.

Therefore, the first thing we must know is that there is a tzaddik emet, as the present parable demonstrates. Then we must do our part. We must turn to the "master craftsman," so that he may fix the damage we have incurred and restore us to "factory specifications." By studying Rebbe Nachman's teachings and by following the paths in divine service they chart, we can undergo a complete spiritual transformation.

Again, to cite the example of Likutey Moharan I, 21, we must sanctify the “seven branches of the Menorah “ – corresponding to the seven apertures of our eyes, ears, nose and mouth – to receive the shefa Eloki, or divine influx. We must train our eyes to see in a new way, an entirely positive way: our ears to hear the words of the wise; our nostrils to inhale and exhale the breath of life, imbued with awe of God; our mouth to speak words that reveal truth and wisdom and God’s praises, not falsehood, slander, and scorn. At the beginning, this may seem an extremely dauntng task. However, just as the caterpillar is destined to turn into a butterfly, the ordinary self is destined to give birth to the tzaddik within us. Everything depends on one’s ratzon, his inner resolve. The primary arena for this inner work is hitbodedut: secluded self-examination and plumbing the depths of the mind and heart. But Rebbe Nachman's path includes all Jewish religious practices - Torah study, meditation and prayer, performance of mitzvot and virtuous deeds - and extends to all areas of life.

"If I so desired, I could make a perfect lamp…"
The son's claim to be able to make a perfect lamp is not just a boast. Through his teachings and disciples, the tzaddik emet will accomplish everything that he set out to achieve. As Rebbe Nachman said, "I have finished, and I will finish…"[cli] The Psalmist assures us, "The world will be built with lovingkindness" (Psalms 89:3). Behind the stage curtain, a new world and a new state of being free of ignorance, exploitation, and conflict, are in the process of being formed. This emerging "world of lovingkindness" is symbolized by the perfect lamp, free of all deficiency. It is the transforming vision of God's Oneness perpetually waiting in the wings of history. 

This is what we are all truly yearning for, even in the midst of our deepest confusions. It may be but a glimmering coal in the ashes of destruction. However, as our sages state, "The Mashiach (Messiah) will be born on the Ninth of Av."[clii] This day commemorates the most tragic event in Jewish history - the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which represents the very paradigm of divine concealment. Yet from the womb of deficiency, the highest wisdom will be born.


Two Divine Names and Rebbe Nachman's Parable
By definition, the Divine Name HaVaYaH is primary, yet the Name Elokim (alef-lamed-heh-yud-mem) appears first in the account of creation, specifically in connection with the physical universe. HaVaYaH does not appear until the creation of man. Why?

There are various explanations of this in the biblical commentaries. But based on Rebbe Nachman's parable, we could say that this is because the physical universe reflects the hiddenness of the Creator, like the Chandelier of Imperfections; however, the true source of creation is HaVaYaH - the miraculous, transcendent aspect of divinity, corresponding to the unseen perfect lamp.

HaVaYaH is also associated with God's mercy, which is revealed through the creation of man. This is because only man can come to realize: "HaVaYaH hu ha-Elokim, ein ode milvado - God (HaVaYaH) is the Lord (Elokim), nothing else exists but Him" (Deuteronomy 4:39). In so doing, we spiritually elevate the natural world, which was created with the Name Elokim.[cliii]

Two Menorahs, Two Trees
Rebbe Nachman mentions three things, including the leaves of a tree. We equated the Menorah to a tree, which similarly has a base (corresponding to a tree's roots), trunk, branches, and even leaves and flowers below the cups that hold the oil and wicks. The tree also symbolizes both the hierarchy and unity of creation. Thus, the "map" of the ten sefirot that provide the spiritual infrastructure of creation is called a "tree." And, of course, the verse states, "Man is a tree of the field" (Deuteronomy 20:19). The human form is yet another level of the metaphor.

Indeed, the human form is reflected on all levels of creation, for man is the focal point of creation. Avot de-Rabbi Nathan calls man a "small world," a microcosm of the universe.[cliv] Thus, the Zohar’s concept that "the Menorah is the head" further suggests that the mystery of unity and multiplicity, which is the mystery of divine wisdom, has a connection to our heads, too. God wants to impart this perception to man.

We discussed the difference between the Divine Name HaVaYaH - yud-heh-vav-heh - and Elokim that appear in the first chapter of Genesis. According to the classic commentary of Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040-1105), HaVaYaH is related to divine mercy, whereas Elokim is related to divine justice. However, in the Kabbalah, the Divine Name Ekyeh - alef-heh-yud-heh - is associated with mercy and the transcendent level of Keter, the Divine Crown; HaVaYaH is associated with the sefirah of Tiferet, Beauty and Harmony; and Elokim is associated with Gevurah, Might. Elokim doesn't present a problem, since the attributes of justice and might invariably go hand in hand. However, the Divine Name HaVaYaH seems to bear a different meaning according to the kabbalistic view.

On closer examination, we see that there is no true contradiction. Based on a passage from the Zohar, the holy ARI explains that the sefirah of Tiferet mirrors the sefirah of Keter on a lower plane.[clv] Tiferet is associated with the paradigm of the "Small Face" (Z'er Anpin), meaning that God reveals His face, as it were, in an immanent manner. Keter, by contrast, is associated with the "Great Face" (Arikh Anpin), alluding to the way God's face is revealed above, on the transcendent plane. Each sefirah expresses the divine mercy, albeit to a different degree. The Thirteen Attributes of Divine Mercy enumerated in Exodus 34:6-7 are associated with Keter. This is absolute mercy. However, nine of these attributes are repeated in Numbers 9:14. They are associated with Z'er Anpin / Small Face, which in Lurianic terminology is the partzuf, or composite of sefirot, that corresponds to Tiferet. This is mercy as it exists in relation to strict justice, its opposite.

The concept of Tiferet leads us to another interesting line of inquiry, another dimension of meaning. The first and all-encompassing moral test Adam was given involved a tree - actually, two trees. For the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil grew in the same place as the Tree of Life.[clvi] Some commentaries contend that their branches were intertwined, like a spiral or braid.[clvii] Kabbalistically, the Tree of Life is identified with Tiferet, while the Tree of Knowlege is identified with Malkhut, Kingship. The latter is also an aspect of din, strict judgment, as in the rule of Talmudic jurisprudence "dina de-malkhuta dina / the law of the kingdom is the law."[clviii] This suggests that the Divine Name HaVaYaH, corresponding to Tiferet, is the Tree of Life, the central point and root of creation. So perhaps we can say that in Rebbe Nachman's parable, the Tree of Life is the perfect lamp, and the Tree of Knowledge is the Chandelier of Imperfections - corresponding to good and evil, dualistic perception, the hierarchy of creation, and the local craftsmen who, lacking the wisdom bound up with the Tree of Life, must inevitably disagree with each other.

The master craftsman, the tzaddik emet, alone can reveal the perfect Menorah, because he is a "living Menorah." Having partaken of its divine fruits, he can lead us to the Tree of Life.

An Upside-Down Menorah
The Chandelier of Imperfections is not just a Menorah, but it is an upside-down Menorah. Perhaps this may be understood by our considering another one of Rebbe Nachman's seemingly self-aggrandizing remarks. He states, "I am a most beautiful and wondrous tree with the most wondrous branches, and below, I rest deeply in the ground."[clix]

What is this "ground?" We might say that it is the ground of being, the ground of creation: Oneness. Creation itself may be described as an upside-down tree, its roots "above" in Ein Sof, the Infinite, and its branches "below" in the realm of multiplicity.

It is like an upside-down Menorah. Breslover Chasidim point out that the word "Menorah" contains the same letters (mem-nun-vav-resh-heh) as "Moharan" - "our master, Rebbe Nachman."[clx]

5. “Just Like Me.”

When faced with the blandishments of olam hazeh (or sometimes just the thought of them), Breslover Chassidim typically caution each other with a one-word reminder: “Tachlit!”—meaning “Don’t forget the true goal!” As Rabbi Nachman observes (Likutey Moharan I, 268): “If a person doesn’t consider the tachlit, of what purpose is his life?” Life is not a cosmic accident. It has a God-given purpose, which we must not lose sight of.

What is the nature of this tachlit? In the same lesson from Likutey Moharan, the Rebbe states what may seem to be obvious to any religious Jew: the purpose of life in this world is to serve God. But he also explains that our divine service, though surely its own intrinsic reward, goes hand in hand with another dimension of the tachlit—at the level of consciousness. This is the da’at, or higher awareness, associated with the “Future World.” As the famous prophecy goes: “The knowledge (de’ah, a construct of da’at) of God will fill the earth like the water that covers the sea” (Isaiah 1:9). This is the Jewish equivalent of enlightenment in its most universal aspect. For the da’at of the Future World will reach all beings on all levels, from the highest to the lowest, like the vastness of the water in the prophet’s metaphor (for more on this subject, see the end of Likutey Moharan I, 21).

In Likutey Moharan II, 19, the Rebbe brings out another facet of this idea, telling us that this higher awareness is attained by performing the mitzvot and serving God with simplicity and faith, the cardinal virtues of his path. Clearly, the two dimensions of consciousness and action are inextricably connected. He similarly states at the beginning of Likutey Moharan II, 37: “The main purpose is only to labor and procede in the ways of God for the sake of His Name, in order to merit to recognize God and know Him. This is the tachlit—and this is what God desires: that we perceive Him.”

He adds that this goal must not be approached in a materialistic way, but in keeping with the deepest longing of the soul. “One person might labor all of his days and pursue worldly desires in order to fill his belly with them,” he explains,  “while another might strive to attain the World to Come—but this, too, is called ‘filling one’s belly.’ For he wishes to fill his belly and gratify his desire with the World to Come! The only difference is that he is a little wiser than the first . . . However, I don’t choose to emulate either of them. All I want is to ‘gaze upon the pleasantness of God’ (Psalms 27:4).”

Thus, the Future World is not just the equivalent of cashing in our chips after a lucky day at the casino. It is actually the culmination of our avodah (spiritual effort): the experience of “gazing upon the pleasantness of God.” This may be attained by the meritorious after death, as well as by the tzaddikim even in this world. The Gemara (Berakhot 17a) says as much when it cites the custom of the sages to bless each other with the words: “May you behold your Hereafter (olam habah) in this life!”

Olam habah is more than a future realm or state of being, but a sublime perception that may be experienced here and now by the tzaddikim – and by those who are attached to them.

One way we can achieve this, the Rebbe tells us, is by conquering our anger with compassion (Likutey Moharan I, 18). In so doing, we transcend our innate selfishness and get in touch with a greater reality – the transpersonal, integrated reality that is so vividly perceived by the tzaddikim. Another way is by heeding the guidance and advice of the tzaddikim, which not only sets our feet in the right direction, but also establishes a spiritual bond between us and the awesome sages who prescribed such holy advice (Likutey Moharan II, 39).

Rabbi Nachman talks about the primacy of this relationship with the tzaddikim as it bears upon our reaching the true goal of life in his tale of the “Seven Beggars,” the culmination of the thirteen mystical stories for which the Rebbe is best known. The narrative is too lengthy and complex to retell here, but we can summarize a few of its key features: after a storm wind ravages the world, turning sea to dry land and dry land to sea, two little children, a boy and a girl, escape into a vast forest. There, hungry and thirsty and frightened, they encounter seven wandering beggars, who appear one after the next each day, and give the lost children bread and water, as well as a blessing. The nature of these blessings is that the children should become like their benefactors in a particular way. For each beggar possesses a physical disability—one is blind, one is deaf, etc.—but the seeming disability masks an awesome holy power. These blessings are assurances that the children will one day acquire the same lofty spiritual levels. Eventually, the homeless boy and girl find their way back to civilization and join a band of wandering hoboes, who adopt them and look after them.

These beggars represent the great tzaddikim throughout history, who sustained us again and again during our long and bitter exile; while the lost children represent the male and female aspects of the Jewish people (or maybe the Jewish people, represented as the groom, and the Shekhinah/Divine Presence, represented as the bride). The seven blessings, and subsequently, seven gifts, are that the children should become “just like” their nameless benefactors. This echoes the Rebbe’s declaration mentioned in the previous chapter, “I can make you tzaddikim ki-moni mamash, just like me!”[clxi] On the one hand, this sounds pretty democratic: it means that we can all get there. On the other, it indicates that everything essentially depends on the tzaddik, who confers his attainments upon those who follow his guidance.  Let’s take a closer look at the nature of those blessings and gifts.

  1. The Blind Beggar
The blessing of the Blind Beggar is: “You should be old like me; that is, you should have a long life, like mine. You think that I’m blind, but actually, I’m not blind at all. It is just that for me, the entire duration of the world’s existence doesn’t amount to even the blink of an eye . . . I am extremely old, but I am extremely young. In fact, I have not yet begun to live – but nevertheless, I am very old.” He goes on to describe a contest with other sages about whose memory is the greatest. The Blind Beggar alone remembers the primal Nothingness (Yiddish: “Ich gedenk gohr-nisht!”) that altogether precedes creation. (He is therefore the “Elder on the Side of Holiness” and the “Elder of Elders”; see Chayei Moharan 123 and 272, citing an expression of the Zohar.) And this sublime realization is his gift to the newlyweds – and to us all when we reach the hour of “finding” or spiritual discovery, the unification that is comparable to a wedding. (In Likutey Moharan I, 65, the tachlis is related to the paradigm of closed eyes, which can perceive the transcendental reality and not be distracted by worldly illusion.)

  1. The Deaf Beggar
The blessing of the Deaf Beggar is: “You should be like me; that is, you should live a good life, like mine. You think that I’m deaf, but actually, I’m not deaf at all. It is just that the entire world does not amount to anything to me, that I should listen to its deficiencies. All sounds come from deficiencies, since everyone cries out about what he is lacking. Even the world’s joys are due to deficiencies, since one only rejoices when his lack is filled . . . However, I have a good life in which nothing is lacking.” In the story he tells as proof of his claim, he alone is capable of saving a mythical Land of Wealth, once perfect in its delights, but now corrupted by an evil king and his emissaries. The Deaf Beggar guides the populace to purify themselves of the three poisons of profane speech, which had ruined the sense of taste; bribery, which had ruined the sense of sight; and sexual immorality, which had ruined the sense of smell. Purged of these evils, the ill-tended garden in the midst of the land reverts to its former Eden-like state, and the lost gardener, who had been taken for a madman, is discovered and restored to his former position. Implicit in this sub-plot is the idea that the “good life,” which is the spiritual life, may be experienced through our very senses, if only we would purify ourselves of these toxins. 

  1. The Beggar With a Speech Defect
The blessing of the Beggar With a Speech Defect is: “You should be like me. You think that I have a speech defect. I don’t have a speech defect at all. Rather, all the words in the world that do not praise God lack perfection. [Therefore, I seem to have a speech defect, since I cannot speak such imperfect words.] But actually, I don’t have a speech impediment at all. Quite the contrary, I am a wonderful orator and speaker. I can speak in parables and verses that are so wonderful that no created thing in the world doesn’t want to hear me. For the parables and lyrics that I know contain all wisdom.” In the course of the tale he tells to “prove” his claims, the Deaf Beggar indicates that his parables and verses sustain the entire universe – and they reflect the animating wisdom of all seven days of creation, which were created through the divine speech. (In Likutey Moharan I, 65, the tachlis is also related to the perfection of speech, in the Rebbe’s description of “making echad / unity of the words of prayer” in the course of davenning.)

  1. The Beggar With a Crooked Neck
The blessing of the Beggar With a Crooked Neck is: “You should be like me. You think I have a crooked neck, but actually, my neck isn’t crooked at all. Quite the contrary, it is very straight. I have a most beautiful neck. However, there are vapors in the world, and I don’t want to exhale and add to these vain vapors. [This is why my neck seems to be crooked: I twisted my neck to avoid exhaling into the atmosphere of the world.] But in fact, I have a most beautiful, wonderful neck, since I have a wonderful voice. There are many sounds in the world that are unrelated to speech. I have such a wonderful neck and voice that I can mimic any of these sounds.” In the extremely obscure tale that the Beggar With a Crooked Neck goes on to relate, this power seems to be the root of all music and prophecy. This is suggested by the symbolism of the two estranged birds that the Beggar With a Crooked Neck reunites, which allude to the two K’ruvim, or winged angelic forms that hovered over the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy Temple and, according to Chazal, served as the channel for prophecy. The Rebbe also implies that this power brings about the spiritual unification associated with the Messianic Redemption. 

  1. The Beggar With a Hunchback
The blessing of the Beggar With a Hunchback is: “You should be like me. I am not a hunchback at all. Quite the contrary, I have broad shoulders (Yiddish: breiter pleitzes, which also means the ability bear difficult responsibilities). My shoulders are an example of the ‘little that holds much’ (a concept found in the Midrash).“ Reb Noson later adds: “The hunchback was on the level of the intermediate zone between space and that which is beyond space. He possessed the highest possible concept of the ‘little that holds much,’ at the very end of space, beyond which the term ‘space’ no longer applies . . . Therefore, he could carry [his companions] from within space to a dimension that transcends space.” In the tale the Beggar With a Hunchback tells to prove his point, this dimension is symbolized by the wondrous “Tree That Stands Beyond Space,” evocative of the biblical Tree of Life, in the branches of which all beings find repose and peace.

  1. The Beggar Without Hands
The blessing of the Beggar Without Hands is: “[You think there is something wrong with my hands.] Actually, there is nothing wrong with my hands. I have vast power in my hands – but I do not use the power of my hands in this physical world, since I need it for something else.” In the course of the story he tells, this other purpose turns out to be the healing of the Queen’s Daughter – another symbol of the collectivity of souls. This healing is accomplished through the Ten Types of Song, corresponding to the Ten Types of Charity, Ten Types of Pulse (mentioned in the Tikuney Zohar – which seem to be a little different than those used in Chinese medicine), and the beggar’s ten invisible fingers. Then he tells the newlyweds, “And I am giving this power to you as a wedding present.”

  1. The Beggar Without Feet
The blessing of the Beggar Without Feet remains a mystery. This final section of the story remains untold until the Mashiach – who in kabbalistic symbology is associated with the feet – arrives and reveals it to us, may it be speedily in our days!

To sum everything up, the gifts of the Seven Beggars are: long life / transcendence of time (eyes); good life / transcendence of need and desire (ears); oratory that contains all wisdom / transcendent speech (mouth); wondrous voice that can produce all sounds / transcendent sound or cosmic music (neck); ultimate degree of “the small that contains the great” / transcendence of space (shoulders); miraculous healing power / transcendence of mortality and sadness (hands); and presumably either perfect faith, or kingship, or joy (all of which are aspects of Malkhus / Kingship), corresponding to transcendence of self, or ego (feet). They make up one structure, just as the parts of the human anatomy to which they correspond form one structure. Acquiring these sublime powers through the grace of the tzaddikim enables one to reach the tachlit at the individual spiritual level.

This is supported by a few more descriptions of the ultimate goal in the Rebbe’s teachings. In Likutey Moharan I, 18, the tachlit equals the “primordial thought,” or divine intention that underlies all of creation. This primordial thought is revealed only at end of the process it sets into motion, and is the aspect of “ayin lo ra’asah / no eye has seen it” (another hint to the symbolism of the Blind Beggar in our story). (Cf. Likutey Moharan I, 8, citing Berakhot 34b, where this phrase indicates Chokhmah and the non-dualistic level. This is supported by the principle that “He and what He enlivens are one, He and what He causes are one—in the ten sefiros of Atzilus / World of Emanation” [Tikuney Zohar, Introduction, 3b], the realm which corresponds to Chokhmah; see the explanation of this in Sefer HaTanya, Iggeret HaKodesh 20).

In Likutey Moharan II, 83, the tachlit is related to the paradigm of “Mekomo shel Olam / Place of the World“—the ohr makkif (encompassing light) or “supra-domain” of creation altogether. And in Likutey Moharan II, 39, the tachlit is related to Shabbos, the olam ha-neshamot / world of souls, and at the experiential level, the lucid perception of God. This may correspond to the “Tree That Stands Beyond Space” in the tale of the Beggar With a Hunchback.

The qualities that the Seven Beggars confer upon the bride and groom are various expressions of being rooted in the “whole”—the transcendent Divine Unity—and not being stranded in the “part,” the illusion of creation as something autonomous, hopelessly conflicted, separate from God. The preeminent tzaddikim represented by the beggars in the Rebbe’s story are those who have fully attained this wholeness and seen through worldly illusion. Therefore, they are uniquely capable of correcting our confusions and elevating us from the spiritual quagmire, so that we, too, may reach the luminous goal for which we were created.

In Likutey Moharan (quoted above), the Rebbe teaches that we must engage in the avodah of Torah study, performance of the mitzvos, prayer (especially hitbodedut) and self-improvement in order to reach the tachlit. However, in the story of the Seven Beggars, the main factor seems to be the tzaddikim who bestow their wondrous gifts upon the newlyweds. Is there a correspondence between what the Rebbe is saying in each body of work, or not?

Maybe we can read avodat atzmo, personal spiritual work, into two elements of the story. First, the children must attain maturity before their companions escort them to the chuppah and beg leftovers from the royal banquest in order to put together a wedding feast. Maybe this maturation process equals personal avodah, which elevates one from a lower level to a higher level. Second, the bride and groom express their yearning for each beggar to join them before the desired guest miraculously appears. This yearning is a key factor, too. We must make what the Zohar calls an “itaruta de-letata / awakening from below” before we can experience a reciprocal “itaruta de-le’eila / awakening from above.” The longing for the beggars on the part of the bride and groom indicates hitkashrut le-tzaddikim, creating a spiritual bond, which is up to us, as well. These two factors are the prerequisites for our ability to receive the greatest gifts of the tzaddikim: to become “just like them mamash.

One Last Story

The Jewish mystical tradition has long been kept "under wraps." As the Talmud states, "The mysteries may be revealed only one-to-one, and the disciple must be a sage who already understands on his own."[clxii] Yet beginning with the Chasidic movement, these secrets have been increasingly revealed - even to those who fail all of the admission requirements. This begs the question: If the student is unprepared, what can the teacher hope to accomplish? The sages of the Mishnah describe four types of students: “the sponge, the funnel, the strainer, and the sieve.”[clxiii] The sieve is praiseworthy in that it allows the flour dust to pass through, but retains the fine flour. This applies to the study of the Torah’s revealed teachings. How much more so, the secrets of Torah!

Rebbe Nachman acknowledged the problem of unworthy students;[clxiv] yet he revealed even more than his predecessors.[clxv] This seems self-contradictory. However, he gave a parable to explain why he divulged so many profound secrets through his teachings and stories, although it did not seem possible that his words would achieve their purpose.

Once there was a king whose only son became so sick that the doctors despaired of healing him. Then one of the great medical experts arrived. The king begged him to do anything he could to save the crown prince. The doctor told him the truth: there was little chance of success. Still, there was one last resort. If they tried it, who knows? It might work.

"I'm reluctant to reveal this method," the medical man said to the king. "It will be very hard to use it, and I don't want the king to become angry with me."

The king told him not to worry, and pressed him to divulge this last possible cure.

"You should know," the doctor began, "that your son's condition is so critical that it is now impossible to give him a single drop of medicine. It is extremely difficult for him to swallow. However, there are certain remedies made from precious stones that are so expensive that the smallest bottle would cost thousands of gold pieces. What the king must do is to fill barrels full of these precious remedies, and then pour buckets of them over the prince. The costly remedies will go to waste, but the prince will become a little stronger due to his body absorbing them. And it is possible that as they pour all of these gallons over him, a tiny drop will enter his mouth - then he might be healed."

The king immediately agreed and ordered his servants to empty the royal treasure trove, if necessary, to save his son. They followed the doctor's instructions, and finally the prince was cured.[clxvi]

Reb Noson adds: It is precisely because we are so crushed by our sicknesses - the sicknesses of the soul - that the tzaddik, like a master physician, is forced to pour such priceless remedies over us, even though it seems that virtually all of them will go to waste. Nevertheless, these healing words surely have an effect on us. And perhaps in the course of time, a drop will pass our lips. Then we will be healed at last, both spiritually and physically!

Appendix: Who was Rebbe Nachman?

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) was a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov ("Master of the Good Name," Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, 1698-1760), legendary founder of the Chasidic movement. He was born and raised in the Baal Shem Tov's house in the town of Medzhibozh, in the western Ukrainian region that used to be called Podolia. He grew up surrounded by many prominent figures in the Chasidic world, including his maternal uncles Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudilkov (1740-1800), author of the classic Degel Machaneh Ephraim ("Flag of the Camp of Ephraim"), and Rabbi Barukh of Medzhibozh (1757-1810), the reigning Chasidic leader in the Ukraine.[clxvii] His saintly mother was known as "Feige the Prophetess" due to her extraordinary spiritual powers. It is said that she knew certain Divine Names by which she could contact the soul of the Baal Shem Tov at will. His father, Rabbi Simcha, was the son of Rebbe Nachman Horodenker (1680-1766), one of the Baal Shem Tov's leading disciples. Rabbi Simcha was an ascetic who spent much time in the surrounding forests in study and meditation. Thus, Rebbe Nachman's emphasis on hitbodedut - secluded meditation and prayer - was part of a tradition he received from his holy forebears. No doubt he was initiated at an early age into the esoteric aspects of the Baal Shem Tov's way of divine service, as well.[clxviii] 

Yet Rebbe Nachman was an "original." He declared that he received his Torah teachings from "a place no one had reached before."[clxix] At the same time, he spoke to all. With all their kabbalistic depths, his teachings are full of practical advice and inspiration, stressing the importance of simple faith, starting anew in every moment, and attuning one's mind to perceive divinity in every facet of creation.

Another pervasive theme is attachment to tzaddikim, those who have reached the highest goal and thus can enable the rest of us get there, too. Rebbe Nachman even intimates that he will help others find their way back to God after his physical death. He compares this to a chain of rescuers trying to save someone sinking in quicksand. The first one pulls the second, who pulls the third, etc., until they have extricated the drowning man.[clxx] So, too, even after his physical passing, the tzaddik can continue to benefit the living through his teachings and followers.[clxxi]

Prior to his passing from this world at the untimely age of thirty-eight, he predicted, “I have finished – and I shall yet finish…”[clxxii] The survival and, in recent years, exponential growth of Breslover Chasidism has vindicated the Rebbe’s words. Today numerous yeshivot have been established in Rebbe Nachman’s name; his works are widely studied in both religious and secular circles; Breslover synagogues may be found all over the world; and several large Breslov communities have been established in Israel.

One of the greatest testimonies to Rebbe Nachman’s enduring influence is the annual pilgrimage to his burial place in Uman, Ukraine. Before his passing, he spoke about the primacy of coming to him for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year – implying that this would be one of the ways he would complete the great task he had begun in the world. Today more than 20,000 Jews from all walks of life heed Rebbe Nachman’s call, and travel to Uman for “the Rebbe’s Rosh Hashanah,” to recite the ten psalms of his Tikkun Ha-Klalli (“Complete Remedy”) at his gravesite, and to discover what the Rebbe meant when he said, “My Rosh Hashanah is higher than everything . . . My very essence is Rosh Hashanah!”[clxxiii]

Chapter 1: Letting in the Light
[1] Liturgy.
[2] Musaf, Kedushah.
[3] Rabbi Avraham Maimon, a disciple of 16th century kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, composed a mystical song paraphrasing Isaiah 45:15 ("For You are a Self-Concealing God") that is still widely sung today during the Third Sabbath Meal.
[4] Zohar II, 42b. This concept is often cited by the Chasidic masters, e.g. Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, Me'or Einayim, Chayei Sarah, Ma'amar "Vi-Avraham Zaken."
[5] Thus, when Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch, first visited the Baal Shem Tov, his future mentor challenged his understanding of a recondite kabbalistic text that discussed the names of various angels. When the Maggid countered by asking the Baal Shem Tov to offer a better explanation, if indeed he knew one, the Baal Shem Tov began to speak. The room immediately became suffused with light, and the Maggid actually beheld the awe-inspiring angels in question. Later, the Baal Shem Tov explained, "Your interpretation was not incorrect - but it had no soul!" (Keter Shem Tov, Kehot 1982 ed., sec. 424).
[6] Likkutim Yekarim 161; in the Breslov literature, cf. Rabbi Nachman Goldstein of Tcherin, 'Otzar ha-Yirah, Emet va-Tzedek, "Bittul el Ohr Ein Sof, sec. 9 (citing Likutey Halakhot).
[7] Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye, Toldot Ya'akov Yosef, Bereshit.
[8] Hakdamah, Tikuney Zohar.
[9] Rabbi Yitzchak Eizik Yehudah Yechiel Safrin of Komarno, Nesiv Mitzvotekha, cited in Sefer ha-Baal Shem Tov, Vayelekh, note 6.
[10] Rabbi Gedaliah of Linitz, Teshu'ot Chen, Tzav.
[11] Also cf. Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, Me'or Einayim, Noach, s.v. va-tishachet ha'aretz (New Square 1997 ed., vol. I, p. 30).
[12] It is almost certain that Rebbe Nachman was familiar with Rabbi Pinchas Elijah Horowitz of Vilna's Sefer ha-Brit (Brunn, 1793), the first half of which attempts to integrate 18th century science with rabbinic and kabbalistic thought; see Mendel Piekarz, Chasidut Breslov (Jerusalem 1972), p. 193ff. In Sefer ha-Brit I, 4:12-13, Rabbi Pinchas Elijah states that a lunar eclipse is caused by the shadow of the earth, while a solar eclipse is caused by the shadow of the moon. Therefore, it is unclear if Rebbe Nachman disputed this, or if there is an error in the text. Perhaps significantly, a similar version of this teaching appears in Sichot HaRan 136 that does not mention this point.
[13] That is, the terms "physical" and "spiritual" are relative. This is implied by the Midrash, which states, "The light of the sun is dark when compared to the light that God created on the first day of creation" (Genesis Rabbah 3:6). Similarly, the Zohar declares, "Even the Supernal Crown (Keter Elyon) is considered 'black' before the Cause of Causes" (Tikuney Zohar, Tikkun 70, 135b).
[14] Avot 6:11.
[15] We have translated the verse in keeping with its context. More literally, it should be rendered "Wisdom - from whence (me-ayin) does it come forth?"
[16] This is because "tzaddikim resemble their Creator" (Likutey Moharan II, 52); also see Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig, Chayei Nefesh, chap. 18, passim.
[17] I am grateful to Rabbi Symcha Bergman for this insight.
[18] Rebbe Nachman interprets the verse "And Hezekiah turned his face to the wall" (Isaiah 38:2) to mean that he turned his awareness within, "for one's true 'face' is one's state of mind" (Sichot HaRan 39).
[19] Thus, Abraham interceded on behalf of Sodom (Genesis, chap. 18), and Moses interceded on behalf of Israel (Exodus 32:1-14), as did the subsequent prophets. Another testimony to the role of the tzaddik as intermediary is the tradition of the Talmudic sages that the Children of Israel heard the last eight of the Ten Commandments as if uttered by Moses; see Rashi, Exodus 19:19, citing the Mekhilta. The prophets repeatedly intercede for Israel. However, this does not mean that we do not have a direct relationship with God. The tzaddik is an intermediary only in the sense that a prayer leader serves as an intermediary: he represents the congregation, yet each member must pray to God directly on his own. In the Breslov literature, see e.g. Rabbi Nachman Goldstein of Tcherin, Zimrat Ha'aretz I, 52; Rabbi Avraham ben Nachman Chazan, Biur ha-Likkutim 10:17.
[20] Sichot HaRan 136 (abridged).
[21] Throughout the Jerusalem Talmud, tzedakah is simply termed "the mitzvah (commandment)." Thus, tzedakah implicitly includes all of the mitzvot; see Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Sefer ha-Middot, Tzedakah II, 14; Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig, Chayei Nefesh, chap. 23.
[22] Yerushalmi Pe'ah 1:1.
[23] Zohar II, 42b.
[24] Reb Noson Sternhartz, Likutey Halakhot, Hil. Tzedakah 3, s.v. vi-zeh bechinat mitzvat tzedakah.
[25] Tomer Devorah ("Palm Tree of Deborah"), chap. 3.
[26] Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Sefer ha-Tanya, Igeret ha-Kodesh, Letter 29, 149b (p. 298), citing Pardes Rimonim 8:3, et al.
[27] Rabbi Chaim Vital, Etz Chaim, Sha'ar Drushey A-B-Y-'A, 1. "Ani" is spelled alef-nun-yud. Rearranged, these letters also spell "ayin"; also cf. Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch, Likkutim Yekarim, 154; Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, Me'or Einayim, Likkutim, s.v. Ma'amar "Tik'u ba-chodesh shofar." The latter teaching relates this to the paradigm of the soundings of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah: the first long sound represents the transcendent divine essence, which precedes creation; the broken sound represents the realm of multiplicity; and the third long sound represents the return to the divine essence.
[28] Likutey Moharan II, 8 ("Tik'u / Tokhachah").
[29] This is called the Shem be-Achorayim, or "Divine Name That Goes Back to the Beginning." That is, each of the four "phases" of the Name begins with the first letter yud, in a pattern of 1, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4. These four phases correspond to the Four Worlds, and collectively represent what the Zohar calls "The Song That Will Be Awakened in the Future" (Tikuney Zohar, Tikkun 21, 51b).
[30] Rabbi David Cohen, ed., Orot ha-Kodesh (Jerusalem: Mosad HaRav Kook, 1985) Vol. II, “Be-Achdut ha-Kolelet,” 30 (pp. 444-45). Cf. Reb Noson’s homiletical interpretation which compares the Fourfold Song to four levels of simchah (joy):  the simple song corresponds to the spark of faith that is “hardwired” into the soul of every Jew; it is a “simple” song because in the depths of his being, every Jew believes in the absolutely simple Oneness of God. The doubled song corresponds to one’s faith in the true tzaddikim. The tripled song corresponds to one’s discovery of the good points that one still possesses, despite all of one’s past failings; and the quadrupled song corresponds to one’s present ability to latch onto the good and to accept with joy the “yoke of the kingdom of heaven.” In doing so, one’s life becomes an expression of the fourfold Song and a vehicle for the four letters of God’s Name Y-H-V-H (Likutey Halakhot, Minchah 7:53).
[31] Maimonides uses this terminology in Mishneh Torah, Hil. Yesodei ha-Torah 1:1-5, as well as in Guide of the Perplexed I, 53 (4) and 57. Given Rebbe Nachman's well-known antipathy toward philosophical works, even those of great authorities such as Maimonides, it may seem surprising that he uses such expressions. However, Rebbe Nachman also asserts that the tzaddik must contemplate philosophical works in order to extricate souls that fell away from faith due to their influence; see Likutey Moharan I, 64 ("Bo el Para'oh"). Moreover, "Mechuyav Ha-metziyut / Imperative Existent" as a coinage for the Deity was accepted by several prominent kabbalists, including Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz, Siddur ha-SheLaH I (Jerusalem: Ahavat Shalom, 1998), p. 133, and Rabbi Pinchas Eliyahu Horowitz of Vilna, Sefer ha-Brit I, 20:15 (109b-110a). This issue is discussed by Rabbi Bezalel Naor in "Shir Na'im as a Reply to Maimonides," which appears as an appendix in my Shir Na'im: Song of Delight (Spring Valley, NY: Orot 2005), pp. 123-126.

Chapter 2: The Wheel of Transformation
[32] Berakhot 33a.
[33] Exodus Rabbah 31:14; also see Shabbat 151b, Sukkah 5:6, Ketubot 10:6.
[34] Tikuney Zohar, Tikkun 19 (42a); Tikkun 69 (115a-b); Tikkun 70 (120a, 133b). This concept is discussed at length by the Safed kabbalists; e.g. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Pardes Rimonim, Sha’ar ‘Erkhei ha-Kinuyim 23:1; Rav Chaim Vital, Eitz Chaim, Drush ‘Iggulim ve-Yosher (11a-13a); ibid. Sha’ar Drushei Nekudot 1 (34a); ibid. Seder Atzilut 3 (17a), et passim; Arba’ Me’ot Shekel Kesef, Drush Adam Kadmon, beg. (9b, 44b), et passim.
[35] Tikuney Zohar, Hakdamah, "Patach Eliyahu."
[36] These include the "Benei Elokim / Sons of the Lord" mentioned in Genesis 6:1-2; Abraham's angelic visitors in Genesis, chap. 18; Lot's guests in Genesis, chap. 19; and the stranger identified with the angel Gabriel who directed Joseph to his brothers in Genesis 37:15-17 (according to Rashi); also see Genesis Rabbah 26:7; Zohar III, 208b; et al.
[37] Yoma 37a; Yerushalmi Berakhot 1, 5, 9, et passim.
[38] One example is Enoch in Genesis 5:24; see Targum Jonathan, ad loc. Another is Elijah in II Kings 2:1.
[39] E.g. Likutey Moharan I, 51, which equates the terms echad / one, tov / good, kadosh / holy, and emet / one.
[40] Ibid.
[41] Tzava'at ha-Rivash 4, 84, 120; Sha'ar ha-Otiyot, Hashgachah Peratit; Shivachei Baal Shem Tov 150; et al. These and other such teachings are translated in my anthology, The Path of the Baal Shem Tov (Jason Aronson 1997).
[42] Reb Noson Sternhartz, Likutey Halakhot, Hil. Peryah vi-Rivyah 3:21.
[43] In the original, Rebbe Nachman speaks of both the Mishkan / Tabernacle and the Holy Temple, which we have simply rendered "Temple" for sake of brevity. The connection between Chanukah and the Temple as a mystical paradigm is discussed further in Likutey Moharan II, 7:11. This lesson, too, was delivered on Chanukah. Reb Noson states that the makifin, or "surrounding powers," mentioned in that lesson are an aspect of the dreidel, since these surrounding powers encompass and constantly change (Sichot HaRan 40, end).
[44] Pesachim 50a; Bava Batra 10b.
[45] Tanchuma, Pekudei 1; Zohar I, 80b.
[46] Genesis 8:21, et al.
[47] Rashi, Zevachim 46b.
[48] Nachmanides mentions the hyle in his commentary on Genesis 1:1-2, apparently alluding to the words of Maimonides in Moreh Nevuchim II, 26; also cf. Rabbi Chaim Vital, Etz Chaim, Sha'ar Drushei A-B-Y-'A, 1; Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, Me'or Einayim, Bereshit, Ma'amar 4, et al. This concept is discussed again in "The Chandelier of Imperfections."
[49] In an addendum to this teaching, Reb Noson adds that the hyle is equivalent to Chokhmah.
[50] Tzava'at ha-Rivash, 12.
[51] Cf. Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, Imrei Pinchas (Bnei Brak 2003), vol. 1, "Chanukah," 68, who states that the letters on the dreidel equal "Mashiach / Messiah."
[52] Likutey Halakhot, Hil. Shabbat 6:8; ibid. Hil. Shilu'ach ha-Ken 5:18; et passim.
[53] Shabbat 146a; cf. Zohar I, 52a.
[54] Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (Ramchal), Adir Bamarom (R. Yosef Spinner, ed.), vol. I, p. 339, citing Zohar III, 119b, re. the verse: “Kolah ki-nachash yelekh / [Egypt's] voice will go forth like a snake…” (Jeremiah 46:22). At the end of the paragraph, Ramchal mentions that "nachash" is numerically equivalent to Mashiach. Conceptually, this connection is found in numerous kabbalistic sources, e.g. Hashmatot ha-Zohar, end of Bereshit (Livorno ed., p. 15b of the hashmatot), which describes the final battle between the nachash and Mashiach. I am grateful to Rabbi Avraham Sutton for locating these sources. Subsequently I came across another mention of this gematria in a Chasidic text, Sefer Ohr ha-Ganuz, Va-etchanan, Ofan Chet (69a) by Rabbi Yehudah Leib Hakohen, a close disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch.
[lv] Another connection between the nachash and Mashiach is that both are symbolically associated with the feet; see Sichot HaRan 93; Likutey Halakhot, Hil. Keriyat ha-Torah 1; ibid. Hil. Hoda'ah 6:4; ibid. Hil. Ribit 5:14; Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, Me'or Eynayim, Likkutim, Ma'amar "Vi-naid'ah nirdefah la-da'at et Hashem" (end); et al.

Chapter 3: The Mysterious Guest
[lvi] Sota 46b. Tanna D’vei Eliyahu Zuta 16:43 states that a disciple who escorts his Torah teacher receives divine blessing. The same text adds (16:46) that when one escorts a traveler embarking on a journey, the traveler will be protected from harm.
[lvii] The Zohar describes the Garden of Eden as having a higher level for the neshamah, which is the seat of thought, and a lower level for the ru'ach, the seat of the emotions; see Zohar I, 138a.
[lviii] See Rabbi Avraham ben Nachman, Kokhvei Ohr, Chokhmah u-Binah, who associates Rebbe Nachman's teachings with the sefirah of Binah.
[lix] Likutey Moharan II, 7:6.
[lx] Sefer Baal Shem Tov, Vayeira, 4, citing Toldot Yitzchak, Likutey ha-Shas.
[lxi] Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudylkov, Degel Machaneh Ephraim, Vayeira.
[lxii] Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha'ar Chanukah, 4. The three "upper" sefirot are Chokhmah / Wisdom, Binah / Understanding, and Da'at / Knowledge, corresponding to three aspects of the mind. The six "lower" sefirot are: Chesed / Kindness, Gevurah / Strength, Tiferet / Beauty or Harmony, Netzach / Eternity or Victory, Hod / Splendor, and Yesod / Foundation, corresponding to the two arms, torso, genitals, and two legs. The seventh and last sefirah is Malkhut / Kingship, which is a partzuf unto itself, corresponding to the feminine archetype. 
[lxiii] Tanchuma, Noach, 5.
[lxiv] Ta'anit 24b; cf. Rabbi Yisrael of Koznitz, Avodat Yisrael, Likkutim, Ta'anit.
[lxv] Leviticus Rabbah, 9:3.
[lxvi] Pesachim 118a.
[lxvii] Genesis Rabbah 1:2, 8:2; Zohar I, 134a, II, 161a‑b.
[lxviii] This idea echoes a fundamental Chasidic teaching. On the verse, "Forever, O God, Your word stands in the heavens" (Psalms 119:89), the Baal Shem Tov explains that "Your word" alludes to the Ten Creative Statements, which bring the universe and all it contains into existence. If the "letters" of these divine statements were to depart for even a moment, everything would revert to nothingness; see Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Sefer ha-Tanya, Sha'ar ha-Yichud vi-ha-Emunah, chap. 1; Rabbi Chaim of Chernowitz, Be'er Mayim Chaim, Bereshit, s.v. bereshit bara, 7.
[lxix] Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:1; Tanchuma, Va'eschanan, 3; cf. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Ohr Yakar, Vayelekh, 1:15 (p. 27), who relates the "Treasury of Unearned Gifts" to the sefirah of Keter.
[lxx] Tikuney Zohar, Hakdamah, "Patach Eliyahu."
[lxxi] A rabbinic maxim quoted by Rabbi Moshe Ibn Ezra, Shirat Yisrael, p. 156.
[lxxii] Based on earlier rabbinic precedents, it is customary for a Chasidic Rebbe to distribute to his followers portions of the foods from which he has partaken. These leftovers are known as "shirayim." This communal eating creates a spiritual bond among the participants, causing the holiness of the tzaddik to extend to all, bringing healing and blessing; see Rabbis Mordechai Scharf and Yisrael Menachem Mendel Brecher, Yesod 'Olam, 11:5-7, citing various sources.
[lxxiii] Oral tradition cited by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender, Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh, vol. II, 1-102.
[lxxiv] Likutey Moharan II, 116; cf. Sichot HaRan 14.
[lxxv] Zohar III, 232a; Exodus Rabbah 3:15, with gloss of Rabbi David Luria (RaDaL); also cf. Zohar III, 7a, 231b, 265a; Tikuney Zohar, Tikkun 18, 35b; Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya, Igeret ha-Kodesh, Letter 25, 139a-b; Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Likutey Moharan II, 77. This is not to be confused with the pagan idea of divine incarnation, which is entirely foreign to Judaism. Rather, the tzaddik is a merkavah, a vehicle for the holiness that God confers upon him, not a deity himself. Therefore, it is forbidden to worship even a true tzaddik or prophet, but God alone. In the Breslov literature, see Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig, Chayei Nefesh, chap. 7, citing Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, Nefesh ha-Chaim, 3:9, et passim.
[lxxvi] 'Otzar ha-Yirah: Bittul el Ohr Ein Sof, 13, citing Likutey Halakhot.
[lxxvii] "Chabad" is an acronym for the three sefirot of Chokhmah (Wisdom), Binah (Understanding), and Da'at (Knowledge). The school of Chasidism founded by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, a leading disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch, took this term as the name for its corpus of teachings and way of divine service.
[lxxviii] Zohar III, 292a; cf. Chagigah 15b re. Talmudic sage Rabbi Akiva, who alone among his peers was able to enter and leave the "Orchard," or supernal realm, unscathed.
[lxxix] Rebbe Nachman alludes to the "ascent" and "descent" of the Living Creatures (Chayot), a class of angels described in Ezekiel 1:14.
[lxxx] Breslov tradition has it that this teaches us an important lesson in divine service: one must cast aside his former habits in order to serve God, and rely upon the guidance of the tzaddik. (Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh, vol. IV, 71).
[lxxxi] Bechinat Olam 13:13, cited by Rebbe Nachman in Likutey Moharan I, 24:8; II, 7:6, 83; Chayei Moharan 282; cf. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Elimah Rabbati, p. 36; Rabbi Aharon of Zhelichov, Keter Shem Tov (Kehot 1982 ed.), sec. 3.
[lxxxii] Zohar I, 229b; II, 210b; III, 101a.
[lxxxiii] Hebrew: Kaf ha-Kelah, mentioned in I Samuel, 25:29. This punishment entails the soul being cast from place to place, without rest; see Zohar I, 238b; III, 59a; Rabbi Eliyahu de Vidas, Reshit Chokhmah, Sha'ar ha-Kedushah 10:11.
[lxxxiv] Chayei Moharan 102. Cf. TB Eruvin 19a. The Patriarch Abraham prevents those who keep his covenant from entering Gehenna; also see Zohar III, 220b; Tikuney Zohar, Tikkun 32, 76b; et al. Rebbe Nachman returns to this subject in Chayei Moharan 298, 602.
[lxxxv] E.g. Rabbi Chaim Vital, 'Etz Chaim II, Hekhal 'A-B-Y-A, Sha'ar Klallot A-B-Y-'A, 42:2:2; Pri Etz Chaim, Sha'ar ha-'Amidah 19 ("Hashivenu") (Ashlag ed., p. 243).
[lxxxvi] Rashi, ad loc., citing Sifré.
[lxxxvii] Tikuney Zohar, Hakdamah, "Patach Eliyahu."
[lxxxviii] The "secret" of the letters is also part of the esoteric meditative tradition of the Baal Shem Tov, passed down from master to disciple and only mentioned in writing in hints. Recently an anonymous Chasidic scholar in Jerusalem attempted to reconstruct this seemingly lost tradition in Shiv'ah Eynayim, vol. III ("Sh'ashu'im"). The third section, entitled "Sh'ashu'im: Tzerufah Imratekha," is devoted to the practical application of these mysteries. Yet his research, although extensive, remains inconclusive, at least for now.
[lxxxix] Cf. Likutey Moharan I, 49, re. the "lower Jerusalem," which corresponds to Malkhut / 'Asiyah, and the "supernal Jerusalem," which corresponds to Binah / Beriah.
[xc] Likutey Moharan II, 10; Sichot HaRan 228; et al.
[xci] Oral tradition cited by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rebbe Nachman's Stories (Breslov Research Institute 1983), p. 37.
[xcii] Zohar II, 148a.
[xciii] Ibid. I, 267a, which states: "Why is gold called zahav (spelled zayin-heh-bet)? Because it includes three categories. The zayin [which has the numerical value of seven] stands for the seven sefirot [Chesed through Malkhut, known as the emotional powers]; the heh stands for the final heh [in the Divine Name YHVH, representing Malkhut, the feminine principle as a separate category]; and the bet stands for Chokhmah and Binah [the intellectual powers]." Cf. Maggid Devarav le-Yaakov, below, note 121.
[xciv] Tikuney Zohar, Hakdamah, 3b, cited in Tanya, Igeret ha-Kodesh 20.
[xcv] This concept is discussed by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya, Igeret ha-Kodesh, Letter 19, citing the ARI, et al.
[xcvi] The Menorah in the Holy Temple represents Malkhut (or the partzuf of Nukva) and the Shekhinah, which expresses the light of Chokhmah on a lower plane. Indeed, Malkhut is sometimes called Chokhmah Tata'ah, the "Lower Wisdom," as in Likutey Moharan II, 91. The seven branches of the Menorah parallel the seven sefirot of Chesed through Malkhut, and the seven days of creation. See Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Ohr Yakar al ha-Zohar, B'ha'alotekha, 7:14 (p. 21); Pardes Rimonim, Sha'ar 'Erkhei ha-Kinuyim, 23:13; and cf. Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha'ar ha-Mitzvot, B'ha'alotekha,  (Ashlag ed., p. 68); Sefer ha-Likkutim, Tetzaveh (Ashlag ed., p. 186).
[xcvii] Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha'ar ha-Mitzvot, Ekev, s.v. amnam ha-talmidei chakhomim yesh bahem koach (Ashlag ed., p. 101).
[xcviii] Ohr Yakar al ha-Zohar, Vayakhel, 4:11, p. 77.
[xcix] Ibid. p. 72.
[c] Sichot HaRan 55.
[ci] Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 61:6.
[cii] Berakhot 13a; cf. Zohar I, hashmatot, 256b.
[ciii] Kiddushin 39b. The World of Beriah also parallels the "World to Come."
[civ] Likutey Moharan I, 234. Rebbe Nachman goes on to discuss the difficulty of silencing the mind. The remedy he prescribes in this lesson is telling stories of the divine providence manifest in the lives of the tzaddikim. Because such divine providence reflects the animating divine wisdom that underlies creation, it provides a way of clearing away mundane attachments so that one may enter the "World of Thought," i.e., the essence of consciousness.

Chapter 4: The Chandelier of Imperfections
[cv] Hebrew: menorah ha-teluyah, or heng leichter in Yiddish.
[cvi] Yoma 86b.
[cvii] Leviticus Rabbah 1:6.
[cviii] Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, "Lekha Dodi" (liturgy)
[cix] Shabbat 118b.
[cx] In Hebrew: “Yesh ‘inyan she-ha-kol nit’hapekh le-tovah.” The phrase “yesh ‘inyan” could also be translated as “there is a matter,” or “context,” or “category.“ See Reb Noson Sternhartz, Likutey Eitzot, Hitchazkut 36.
[cxi] Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye, Toldot Yaakov Yosef, Bo.
[cxii] Zohar II, 128b.
[cxiii] Shabbat 119b.
[cxiv] Zohar II, 42b.
[cxv] See below, note 118.
[cxvi] Tikuney Zohar, Hakdamah, 13b.
[cxvii] This reflects a basic principle in divine service found throughout Jewish mystical works. For example, sixteenth century kabbalist Rabbi Elijah de Vidas, a leading disciple of Rabbi Moses Cordovero (RaMaK), writes: "The Holy One, blessed be He, is sanctified and removed from the deficiency of this mundane world, and His holiness and spirituality are limitless, as we declare, 'His holiness cannot be measured' (liturgy, 'Yigdal'). Therefore, the tzaddikim who seek His Oneness must be divorced from materialism and sanctified in thought, which is the root of all aspects of holiness, preceding them all and being the final goal of them all. This is the intent of the verse, 'And thou shalt be a holy people unto Me' (Exodus 22:30) - 'holy' denotes the supernal holiness, which is the mystery of thought [i.e. higher consciousness]" (Reishit Chokhmah, Sha'ar ha-Kedushah, 1).
[cxviii] Rashi on Numbers 8:4, citing Tanchuma.
[cxix] Ibid.
[cxx] Likutey Halakhot, Hil. Kiley Behemah 4:17.
[cxxi] Maggid Devarav le-Yaakov (Kehot ed.), 236. This teaching is closely related to the present discussion:

We must understand why the Torah mentions gold before silver, and water before fire. Gold is a sevenfold structure. The letters of the word zahav (gold) allude to the seven (zayin) "days" [an allusion to the seven sefirot] produced by the five (heh) types of articulation - i.e. they come forth from the divine speech. [This accounts for the letters zayin (7) and heh (5) in the word zahav.] The final letter bet includes all the words of the Torah - for the Torah begins with the letter bet [of "Bereshit - In the beginning…"]; and it is axiomatic that the first letter of the Torah includes all the rest, just as the first letter one speaks includes everything one wishes to say. That which exists in the part also exists in the whole, albeit in the primordial root of intellect, which is the hyle - represented by the letter yud [in the Divine Name YHVH].

We can see this even with our senses, when a new perception enters a person's mind. Afterwards he reflects on how all this had been hidden from him, and then [the new perception] suddenly occurred to him, bringing with it an effluence of the primordial intellect. In our case, too, the bet of the word bereshit contains all of the words that follow afterward.

Thus, the bet contains a dagesh, a dot inside the letter indicating emphasis [i.e. it should be pronounced like a "b," not like a "v"]. The Zohar refers to this as a "point in the chamber," for the bet is like a chamber that contains all other letters. However, they exist within the power of the hyle. Thus, the inner point alludes to the letter yud, representing the hyle, unformed chokhmah / wisdom.

This [corresponds to] the oversized mem, the closed letter mem [shaped like a square, and pronounced like the consonant "m"] - such as the [anomalous] oversized mem in the phrase "to the one with greatness in dominion (le-marbeh ha-misrah)…" (Isaiah 9:6). [The letter mem in "le-marbeh" is written as in the form of a large final mem, which is shaped like a square. According to one line of thought, the verse speaks of the Messiah. The Zohar states that the large closed mem alludes to Binah, recondite wisdom.] Thus, zahav (gold) includes all "seven types of gold" [i.e., the seven sefirot]. This is why it precedes silver.

That is, the dot in the letter bet represents the sefirah of Chokhmah garbed within Binah. This corresponds in turn to the "closed" or final mem, representing the transcendental wisdom of the Mashiach / Messiah. In summation, the Maggid relates gold to the seven sefirot (Chesed through Malkhut); five articulations (corresponding to the five gevurot / constrictions of Binah); and the letter bet with a dagesh / dot that begins the Torah, alluding to Binah / Chokhmah / hyle. Cf. Imrei Tzaddikim (Ohr ha-Emet, Zhitomir 1901 ed.) 19c, in which the Maggid relates the root of the ten sefirot in Chokhmah to the medieval alchemists' quest to transmute base metals to gold.
[cxxii] Nachmanides discusses the hyle in his commentary on Genesis 1:1, in connection with the phrase tohu va-vohu ("formless and void"). He cites the Sefer ha-Bahir, which states: "And what is tohu? It is something that astonishes people. Then it was turned into bohu. And what is bohu? It is something that has substance, [being a composite of the words] bo-hu [literally, 'in it there is substance']." Nachmanides identifies the hyle with tohu.
[cxxiii] Zohar III, 28a, 235b; also see Rabbi Chaim Vital, Etz Chaim II, Sha'ar Drushei A-B-Y-'A, 1, who relates the hyle to the sefirah of Keter. Although Reb Noson identifies the hyle with Chokhmah, sometimes Keter is called Chokhmah, since Keter, too, may be considered the point of origin of all manifestation. Therefore, it is possible to resolve this seeming contradiction. Moreover, since Nachmanides associates the hyle with tohu, he seems to identify it with the sefirah of Chokhmah, unlike Rabbi Chaim Vital, who conceives the hyle as preceding tohu / Chokhmah. This could be resolved by proposing two uses of hyle, one relative (Chokhmah), and the other absolute (Keter). We have used these terms less rigorously in our commentary.
[cxxiv] Likutey Moharan I, 66:4; also see Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig, Chayei Nefesh, chap. 21, for further discussion.
[cxxv] Likutey Moharan I, 74; also see Rabbi Chaim Vital, Etz Chaim II, Heikhal Z'er Anpin, Sha'ar Drushei ha-Tzelem, 9:25:1; cf. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya, Igeret ha-Kodesh, Letter 5 (107a).
[cxxvi] Or "ten lights in one vessel"; Rabbi Chaim Vital, Etz Chaim I, Heikhal Adam Kadmon, Sha'ar Akudim, 1:6:1.
[cxxvii] Zohar I, 47a, et passim.
[cxxviii] The other three terms are ish, gever, and enosh. Ish denotes the emotional attributes, whereas gever denotes strength, and enosh denotes weakness; see Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Ohr Yakar al ha-Zohar, Bereshit, Sha'ar 6, 46:2 (p. 226); also cf. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch, On the Teachings of Chasidus, sec. 7, pp. 23-24.
[cxxix] The Divine Name Mah corresponds to Tiferet / Z'er Anpin. These terms describe the channel by which the light of Chokhmah may reach the lowest levels of creation, albeit in more constricted form. The ARI identifies the Menorah with Nukva de-Z'er Anpin. In non-technical language, this is the deep wisdom of Torah as it becomes available to the world; see Rabbi Chaim Vital, Eitz Chaim II, Sha'ar Tikkun ha-Nukva, 7 (Ashlag ed. p. 165); Sefer ha-Likkutim, Tetzaveh (Ashlag ed., p. 186).
[cxxx] Chagigah 4a.
[cxxxi] The letter alef, being first in the Hebrew alphabet, alludes to God's unity. Thus it is associated with the "supernal worlds." The Divine Name "Mah" corresponds to the World of Yetzirah / Formation. As such, it rectifies the World of 'Asiyah / Action below it.
[cxxxii] Sota 3a.
[cxxxiii] Rabbi Aharon Hakohen of Zhelichov, Keter Shem Tov ha-Shalem (Kehot 2005 ed.), 292a, b.
[cxxxiv] Tikuney Zohar, Tikkun 69, 112b.
[cxxxv] Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha'ar ha-Gilgulim, Hakdamah 11.
[cxxxvi] Berakhot 61a.
[cxxxvii] Pardes Rimmonim, Sha'ar 'Erkhei ha-Kinuyim, 23:13, citing Bava Batra 25b.
[cxxxviii] Sefer ha-Middot, Da'at II, 1.
[cxxxix] Sichot HaRan 306.
[cxl] Rebbe Nachman once told his mother, Rebbetzin Feige, that he had reached this level, quoting the verse, "Wisdom gives life to its owner" (Ecclesiastes 7:12). The anecdote appears in Chayei Moharan 238.
[cxli] Sichot HaRan 181.
[cxlii] Paraphrase of Chayei Moharan 269.
[cxliii] This interpretation reflects Rebbe Nachman's axiom in Likutey Moharan I, 21, that as long as one does not grasp the supra-rational solution to the paradox of man's free will and divine omniscience, free will remains in place. Similarly, as long as the Divine Oneness symbolized by the "perfect lamp" is hidden, the Chandelier of Imperfections exists - in order to serve as a springboard for the intuition of that Oneness.
[cxliv] Proverbs 10:25. Accordingly, the Zohar expounds: "When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the universe, He established it on one pillar, and ‘tzaddik’ is its name. [The tzaddik] preserves the world, and he sustains the world" (Zohar I, 208a).
[cxlv] Rimzey ha-Ma'asiyot, Ma'aseh 13, Fourth Day, s.v. al kein lo hodiy'a lahem rak chisaron sheleimutam. It seems that what Rebbe Nachman means by "tzaddik emet," at least in this context, goes beyond the concept that there is one preeminent living tzaddik in every generation. The tzaddik emet is one who has attained universality, and thus can reveal an entire new dimension of Torah wisdom that had previously been hidden within the "mind" of the Infinite One. As such, he may remain the preeminent tzaddik for many generations. This is implicit in Rebbe Nachman's assertion: "From the time of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who was a unique figure, as is well known, until the time of the ARI (Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572), of blessed memory, the world was quiet. That is, in the intervening period, there were no new revelations comparable to those of Rabbi Shimon . . . From the time of the ARI until that of the Baal Shem Tov (Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, 1698-1760), the world was again quiet, without any such new revelations . . . The Baal Shem Tov was a wondrously unique figure, who revealed completely new teachings. From then until now, the world remained quiet, and conducted itself only according to the Baal Shem Tov's revelations. Then I came along, and now I am beginning to reveal awesome and exalted teachings which are entirely new and original" (Chayei Moharan 279; also cf. Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig, Chayei Nefesh, chap. 34). The subject of the tzaddik emet is discussed at length by Rabbi Chaim Kramer, Crossing the Narrow Bridge (Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute 1989), chap. 17.
[cxlvi] Sichot HaRan 252, citing Zohar II, 166b.
[cxlvii] Sichot HaRan 165. Some have contrasted this statement with the view of Rebbe Nachman's older contemporary, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, that tzaddikim are born as such, while beinonim ("intermediates," who are neither perfectly righteous nor wicked) must battle their evil inclinations all their days and cannot become tzaddikim through their own efforts; see Tanya, chaps. 12-15. Perhaps this seeming contradiction may be reconciled according to Rabbi Schneur Zalman's words in chapter 14 (end), that through what the kabbalists call 'ibbur (literally "impregnation"), the soul of a tzaddik may combine with that of an ordinary person, if the latter is deemed worthy. Then the intermediate, too, may experience the inner unity of the tzaddik. This very concept may be implied by Rebbe Nachman's phrase "and become exactly like me." That is, through striving to serve God according to Rebbe Nachman's teachings, one may be deemed worthy to be granted this fusion with the soul of a tzaddik - namely Rebbe Nachman - and thus enter the category of tzaddik, as well.
[cxlviii] Berakhot 5b.
[cxlix] Chayei Moharan 299, et passim. In this vein, he also once remarked: "I could turn you all into awesome, perfect tzaddikim. But what would come of it? If so, God would be serving Himself." Reb Noson adds: "In other words, it was his wish that we labor in divine service on our own, using his spiritual empowerment and holy advice - not that he should grant us everything gratuitously" (ibid. 330).
[cl] Sichot HaRan 111; also cf. Likutey Moharan I, 123; ibid. II, 45. This is similar to the mystical rationale for appointing a king given by the Tzemach Tzedek of Lubavitch (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, 1789-1866), Derekh Mitzvotekha, Mitzvat Minui Melekh, 108a: "This is the perennial responsibility of the king - to enable the creatures to be nullified to God by virtue of their being nullified to [the king], who in turn is nullified to God [to a far greater degree]."
[cli] Chayei Moharan 322.
[clii] Eichah Rabbati 1:57, et al.
[cliii] See Likutey Halakhot, Hil. Matnat Shekhiv me-Ra’ 2:2 (continuation of Hil. Matanah 1), where Reb Noson espouses and elaborates upon the kabbalistic metaphysical view sometimes described as acosmism. As a precedent, he cites Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1555-1628), Sh'nei Luchot ha-Brit (Be-'asarah Ma'amarot 1:5; in Jerusalem 1993 ed., vol. I, p. 179a). Another 16th century source is the Maharal of Prague's Shabbat Teshuvah lecture of 1588 (beginning), published in some editions of his Sefer Gevurot Hashem. The doctrine of acosmism also appears in numerous Chasidic sources, e.g. Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, Likutey Amarim, 14d (excerpted in Sefer Baal Shem Tov, Va-etchanan, 13); Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, Me'or Einayim, Noach, s.v. ve-hinei isa Shekhinah be-tachtonim; Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Sefer ha-Tanya, Sha'ar ha-Yichud ve-ha-Emunah, esp. chapters 1, 6, 7, et passim. This interpretation of "ein ode milvado" pervades the Chabad literature in particular.
[cliv] Avot de-Rabbi Nathan, chap. 31.
[clv] Rabbi Chaim Vital, Eitz Chaim I, Heikhal ha-Ketarim, 2:13:9, citing Zohar II (Sifra de-Tzniuta), 176b-177a; also see Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, Sha'arei Orah (Gates of Light), Gates 5, 10, who relates the quality of mercy to both Keter and Tiferet.
[clvi] Midrash ha-Gadol, Bereshit 3:24.
[clvii] Rabbenu Bachaya on Genesis 2:9.
[clviii] Gittin 10b; cf. Zohar II, 227a-b.
[clix] Chayei Moharan 245. Another possible interpretation would be that the tzaddik's beneficial influence reaches deep below into this corporeal world.
[clx] Oral tradition cited by Shimon Zayis, The Candelabrum: Tales of the Talmud (Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute 1988), Introduction; conceptually, cf. Reb Noson Sternhartz, Likutey Halakhot, Hil. Behemah vi-Chayah Tehorah 4:30.

Chapter 5: “Just Like Me”
[clxi] Chayei Moharan 269.

Chapter 6: One Last Story
[clxii] Chagigah 11b.
[clxiii] Avot 5:15. The full text is: “There are four categories of those who sit before the sages: a sponge, a funnel, a strainer, and a sieve. A sponge absorbs everything; a funnel takes in from one end and spills out from the other; a strainer allows the wine to flow out while retaining the sediment; and a sieve allows the flour dust to pass through while retaining the fine flour.”
[clxiv] E.g. Likutey Moharan I, 59, 60, et passim.
[clxv] Indeed, the name "Nachman" has the numerical value of "megaleh sod / reveal a secret"; see Nachal Sorek (Jerusalem: Meshekh ha-Nachal, 1989), Inyanim Shonim, 1022.
[clxvi] Chayei Moharan 391.

Appendix: Who Was Rebbe Nachman?
[clxvii] See Rabbi Natan Zvi Kenig, Neveh Tzaddikim, chap. 1-2. Reb Noson mentions the tradition that Rebbe Nachman's mother was known as a "prophetess," i.e., she possessed ru'ach ha-kodesh (divine inspiration) and was privy to supernormal perception, in Chayei Moharan 114.
[clxviii] Aside from his holy parents and other family members, Rebbe Nachman knew many of the greatest tzaddikim of his generation. Most living disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and Maggid of Mezeritch visited Medzhibozh when he was a child, often staying in his parents' home; others he met later in young adulthood, during his travels. These included Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye, Rabbi Chaim of Krasna, Rabbi Aharon of Tetiev, Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, Rabbi Gedaliah of Linitz, Rabbi Zev Wolf of Charni-Ostrov, Rabbi Hirsh Leib of Alik, Rabbi Mordekhai of Neshchiz, Rabbi Yisrael of Koznitz, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk, etc. Of course, we have no idea of what esoteric wisdom Rebbe Nachman received from others and what he acquired on his own. However, his possession of such wisdom is indicated by his communications with the souls of the Baal Shem Tov, Rav Sa'adia Gaon, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, his deceased mother, and deceased followers; an argument with the Rav of Alik about the appearance of a certain angel; secrets of the Megillah Setarim ("Hidden Scroll"), which he divulged to Reb Noson and Rabbi Naftali; and his other mystical works (most of which were later destroyed at his behest); see Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan / Rabbi Dovid Shapiro, Until the Mashiach (Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute 1985), passim. Indeed, all of Rebbe Nachman's writings are replete with such wisdom.
[clxix] Chayei Moharan 353, hashmatot; cf. Likutey Moharan I, 15:4.
[clxx] Sichot HaRan 209 (end); cf. Likutey Moharan II, 7:4; Chayei Moharan 225 (end).
[clxxi] For a brief outline of the normative Breslov doctrine, see Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Tziun ha-Metzuyenet, 78, citing Likutey Halakhot, Hil. Shluchin 5, et al. In English, contemporary Breslov teacher Rabbi Chaim Kramer discusses this issue in Crossing the Narrow Bridge (Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute 1989), chap. 17 (esp. pp. 343-359).
[clxxii] Chayei Moharan 322.
[clxxiii] Ibid. 403.

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