Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Boot Factory

The idea that Rebbe Nachman would remain the mentor of those who followed his teachings even after his death may not seem so radical today. But Reb Noson, who established this as one of the foundations of Breslov Chassidus, encountered fierce opposition, especially during his later years. This account is an abridged section of Chapter 36 from Rabbi Chaim Kramer’s Through Fire and Water, based on the primary sources Alim L’Terufah, Tovos Zikhronos, and Yemey HaTla’os.

During the years of persecution that Reb Noson and his followers endured, Reb Noson’s opponents in the town of Breslov arranged for the local authorities to set up a boot factory to supply an army unit stationed nearby. The site they chose was Reb Noson’s house.

In the weeks before Passover, a group of non-Jewish workers converted the main room into a workshop, filled with foul-smelling hides. There they worked, while Reb Noson’s family was restricted to the bedrooms. On the evening before Passover, the time came to search the house for chametz; however, the non-Jewish workers were still at work, and their food was still on the premises. Reb Noson had always said, “When one recites the berakhah before bedikas chametz, it is already a shtik Pesach (i.e., one is already connected to Passover itself).” He recited the blessing with intensity, having in mind that just as the chametz must be removed, so should the boot factory. Then he performed the search.

The workers were so awed by Reb Noson’s blessing that they told him to search wherever he wished, and not to think of them at all. The following day at noon, they removed their hides and equipment, and left. Immediately a few people were hired to clean the house and help prepare it for Passover.

That night during the Seder, Reb Noson recited the Haggadah with great fervor. During the meal, his family began to discuss their sufferings and express their happiness for being rid of the boot factory. Then they began to speak against their opponents. This upset Reb Noson.

“This is such a great and awesome time,” he said. “After all the effort every Jew has put into his Passover preparations, after all the money we have spent to honor the festival, after all our longing to perform the mitzvos of Passover, it is forbidden to speak against them, God forbid. They are our brothers. Eventually they will receive their tikkun. We ourselves will seek remedies for them!” After the meal, Reb Noson completed the Seder with a deeply inspiring melody.

© Breslov Research Institute

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