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18****Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav

Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav

Born: Mizhbozh, Podolia, Russia, 1772 (1st of Nissan)

Died: Uman, Podolia, Russia,1811

Rabbi Nachman, a great-granson of the Baal Shem Tov, occupies a singular place on the chassidic firmament as an innovator who roused his followers to heretofore unknown heights of dveikut, attachment to God, coupled with sublime joy. Even as a youngster he showed signs of greatness, studying the Talmud without letup. After his marriage at 13 he would often go into seclusion, seeking communion with God through fervent prayer and fasting, a practice he continued throughout his life. He would wander off into fields and forests, contemplating the marvels of God's creation. Divesting himself of the mundane, he would reach a state of high exaltation and experience the purest form of spiritual joy.

After he settled in Medvidovka his fame as a holy man spread rapidly, and a steady stream of chasidim converged on his modest dwelling to be inspired by his saintly way of life. 

In 1798 he traveled to Eretz Yisrael. Word of his imminent arrival spread rapidly, and many admirers, among them well-known kabbalists, flocked to join his circle of ardent followers. His brief stay ended when Napoleon invaded the country. Returning home he settled in Bratzlav, which became a principal center of Chassidism. His rise to prominence and his controversial leaning toward an asceticism that was coupled with exuberant ecstasy provoked a great deal of opposition on the part of those rebbes who claimed that his service lacked dignity. On the heels of a bitter dispute, as well as a calamitous fire that ravaged his home, he left Bratzlav in 1810 and settled in Uman. On Sukkot of the following year he died of tuberculosis at the age of 38, without appointing a successor, and no rebbe was chosen.

Though the Breslov chasidim still have no living rebbe, their movement continues to flourish and is today operating yeshivot and other institutions in America, Israel and many other countries, continually attracting many new adherents and baalei teshuvah  (newly observant Jews) who are drawn by the warmth of its enthusiastic fervor. every year thousands of chassidim tavel to Uman to visit the tomb of Rabbi Nachman, who has remained their rebbe.

Before his death, R' Nachman instructed his followers to destroy all his writings, but in spite of this admonition 52 of his books were published by his closest disciple, Rabbi Nathan. Among these is Likutei Moharan, a collection of his thoughts. The lessons are long and complex, masterfully drawing on the entire body of Talmudic, Midrashic and Kabbalistic literature. Ideas are connected by a poetic and intuitive grasp of the texts. He strongly opposes all philosophical speculation, counseling his followers to serve God with simple, naive, childlike faith. R' Nachman is known for the intricate tales he wove of princes and beggars, horsemen and rabbis; these were parables with profound moral messages, which were compiled by R' Nathan in his Sippurei Maasiyot

Always Be Happy

When you are filled with joy all day you can easily find an hour in which to pour out your heart before the Holy One blessed is He.  When you are depressed it is very difficult to seclude yourself and speak to God. Therefore, do your best, even force yourself to be always happy, especially when you are praying. It is impossible to reach a true state of happiness except by doing [what may be seen as] foolish things [that is by removing every trace of self-importance, and not caring what others think of you]. (Mekor Hasimchah)

Early Marriage

It happens very often that parents claim that they love their children and don't want to marry them off while they are still young. "Let them stay at home for a few more years," they contend. These parents don't love their children; they love themselves! For at that young age, their children are consumed with sexual desire. Parents who love their children there-fore marry them off young.

They often use as an excuse the high cost of living, and the enormous expenses involved in preparing a wedding. That too is a fallacy. Where is it written that they must display their wealth by wasting money on ostentatious weddings? Let them make a modest wedding, and if they saved any money let them give it to the young couple. If they would invite to the wedding only the closest members of the family they could easily marry off all their children without incurring exorbitant expenditures.

Sometimes the search for a match of status and distinguished lineage is the reason for deferring marriage plans for their children. In order to gain prominence for themselves, these parents delay their children's marriage for many years. Don't they realize that many young people go astray because they were not married at an early age?...Let the parents have pity on their children and marry them off when they are young. They will then enjoy much pleasure from them and from the children they will have. The parents will live to see the fulfillment of the verse, "Your children shall be like olive shoots surrounding your table" (Psalm 128:4).    (Erech Apayim)

Prayer in the Open Field

When you pray out in the field, the entire plant world comes to your aid and lends strength to your prayers. It is for this reason that one of the terms used for prayer is sichah, which is related to siach, denoting shrubs, as in Genesis 2:5. Indeed, when the Torah relates that Isaac went out into the field to pray (Genesis 24:63), the word used for "to pray" is lasu'ach (cognate to siach), for Isaac's prayer was boosted by the energy inherent in the plants. (Likutei Moharan, Tanina 11)

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If you believe that you can damage, believe you can fix.  – R' Nachman of Breslov

*** For English translations of books by Rabbi Nachman click here

May the merit of the tzaddik  Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav  protect us all, Amen.

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