Notes on the greatest story-teller of all times, Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav
Source notes from Wikipedia and other sites
For the recorded discussion, go to:https://youtu.be/2DRly7WHJ4U
Nachman of Breslov (Hebrew: נחמן מברסלב), also known as Reb Nachman of Bratslav, Reb Nachman Breslover (Yiddish: רבי נחמן ברעסלאווער), Nachman from Uman (April 4, 1772 – October 16, 1810), was the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.
Rebbe Nachman, a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, revived the Hasidic movement by combining the esoteric secrets of Judaism (the Kabbalah) with in-depth Torah scholarship. He attracted thousands of followers during his lifetime, and his influence continues today through many Hasidic movements such as Breslov Hasidism. Rebbe Nachman's religious philosophy revolved around closeness to God and speaking to God in normal conversation "as you would with a best friend."
Also, the father of modern Yiddish and Hebrew literature-since he write his stories in both languages,before Sholem Aliechem and Peretz, before Mapua and Bialik, long before these had become modern literary languages.
Recommended reading:Arthur Green, The Tormented Master.
“If Hasidism begins in the life-enhancing spirituality of the Baal Shem Tov, it concludes in the tortuous, elitist and utterly fascinating career of Nahman of Bratslav (1722–1810).
“Nahman of Bratslav is unique in the history of Judaism, Green emphasizes, for having made the individual’s quest for intimacy with God the center of the religious way. He was a Kierkegaard before his time, believing in the utter abandon of the life of faith and the risk of paradoxicality. . . . He was, more than all others, the predecessor of Kafka, whose tales, like Nahman’s, have no explicit key and rankle, flush and irritate the spirit, compelling us—even in our failure to understand—to acknowledge their potency and challenge.”—New York Times
Secluded meditation practices were encouraged by many medieval rabbis, such as Abraham Maimonides, Abraham Abulafia, Joseph Gikatilla, Moses de Leon, Moses Cordovero, Isaac Luria, and Chaim Vital. The founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov, encouraged his close disciples to find deveikus through hisbodedus and by meditating on the kabbalistic unifications (yichudim) of Isaac Luria.
Rebbe Nachman taught that the best place for hitbodedut is in the forests or fields. "When a person meditates in the fields, all the grasses join in his prayer and increase its effectiveness and power," he wrote.
Modern influence- the song of Naomi Shemer Shirat Ha-asavim:
shekol ro'eih ve ro'eih
yeish lo nigun meyuchad mishelo.
that each and every shepherd
has his own tune.
that each and every grass
has its own poem.
Sung by Shuli Rand, popular Israeli actor-photos below show then and then and now:
During a session of hitbodedut, the practitioner pours out his heart to God in his own language, describing all his thoughts, feelings, problems and frustrations.
"It is very good to pour out your thoughts before God like a child pleading before his father. God calls us His children, as it is written (Deuteronomy 14:1), "You are children to God." Therefore, it is good to express your thoughts and troubles to God like a child complaining and pestering his father."
Hitbodedut also lends itself to certain silent meditation techniques. One is the "silent scream," which Rebbe Nachman himself practiced. He described the silent scream as follows:You can shout loudly in a "small still voice
Munch, The Scream
A Breslaver in the woods( also Shukli Rand, Ushpizin)
A contemporary psychological example of screaming for therapy.
The scream-1st 30 seconds: https://youtu.be/gSoMvDJyp0w
Another form of hitbodedut is called bitul (nullification), in which the practitioner meditates on God's presence to the exclusion of all other things, including himself. ( Unmindfulness?)
(Bitul hayesh- Nullification of the “in one’s self”. Yesh.( There is) This is an extension of concept found in early Jewish sources, of the nullification of one’s will in the presence of God’s will, also very common in mystic thought world-wide.) ( The opposite of Descartes, I think, therefore I am.)
Old joke: how many Breslavers does it take to change a light bulb- zero- the bulb can never be replaced.
Addressing psychological needs:
Because the Rebbe didn’t shy away from boldly addressing popular modern topics, from sex and drugs to music and food, navigating familial and societal pressures, depression and anxiety, meditation and prayer, and of course, spirituality, birth, and death, Breslov is often cited as the body of Hasidic thought most essential to our times.
The Rebbe also openly addresses other addictions and compulsions, everything from tobacco to self-destructive and de-humanizing sexual attitudes. He explains the power of the imagination and imagery and how they affect emotions and even reality, taking a close look at the potentially negative power of magical thinking. Depression, sadness, feeling that life is futile—Rebbe Nachman also offers insights into the tenor of our heads and hearts and advice on how to develop emotional fortitude in a world that often doesn’t make sense.
On Kafka and Rebbe Nachman Discovering Kafka and Rabbi Nachman
Dan FriedmanNovember 3, 2010 Forward
Why Kafka and Nachman of Bratslav? Interview
R.K. I was struck by two things. One, I was teaching a course on literature and Jewish mysticism at Louisiana State, and I was interested in the idea of considering mystical literature as literature. So “The Zohar” is once described as a romancero, a Spanish picaresque novel with rabbis roaming through the landscape. What happens if you start tracing a line through Jewish mystical literature, and you come to Rabbi Nachman, who’s actually in a certain way a literary figure — the inventor of the Yiddish tale (even though these tales are infused with Jewish mysticism)? Then you cross over the secular line; the next writer up in Kafka, who is clearly a literary writer but whose stories are full of theological content, as Gershom Scholem would say. And in fact, as Scholem indicates, if you want to understand Kabbalah in our time, you’d have to read Rabbi — You’d have to read Franz Kafka.
Which takes us to Kafka, who best summarized our contemporary life as a Cockroach.
Kafka as a Jew https://muse.jhu.edu/article/24490
Jewishness and Judaism began to matter very much to him from 1911 on, when Kafka was twenty-eight. From that time on, he began to be intensely occupied with Jewish history, Jewish tradition, Jewish lore, and Jewish culture—an interest which was not only sustained but constantly grew until his death in 1924 at the age of forty. It is significant for his writing that Kafka’s turn to Judaism preceded by less than one year what he called his breakthrough to the work of his maturity, to the kind of writing that established his posthumous fame and for which the adjective kafkaesque has been coined. As I shall try to show, there exists a connection between the peculiar nature of Kafka’s mature writing and his discovery of what he considered to be authentic Judaism, which he regretted bitterly not having known until then.
The Yiddish theater group( c 1911-12) from . . .came to Kafka as a revelation and prepared him for the breakthrough in his writing.
That encounter affected both his life and his work. . . .. He immediately began to study the history of Judaism, read about and in the Talmud and later the Kabbalah; in fact, near the end of his life he called “this whole literature,” by which he meant mainly his own writings, “potentially a new . . . kabbalah,” “an assault on the frontier” (T 553). With a series of teachers he took up the consistent study of Hebrew. He subscribed to the Zionist journal, Selbstwehr or Self-Defense, and he published two of his stories in Der Jude (The Jew), a Zionist journal edited by Martin Buber. Although aloof from any political involvement [End Page 845] in Zionism, Kafka began to toy with the idea of emigrating to Palestine and working on a kibbutz.
On Going impact today:
Na Nach is the name of a subgroup of Breslover Hasidim that follows the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov according to the tradition of Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser (called the Saba, or grandfather, by Na Nachs). The Saba is believed to have received an inspirational note, called the Petek (note), from the long-deceased Rebbe Nachman. Devotees of the group, colloquially called Na Nachs, make themselves quite visible in the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias, and other Israeli cities as they dance atop and around moving vans to techno-Hasidic musical compositions, with the goal of spreading joy to passersby.. They are identifiable by their large, white, crocheted yarmulkes bearing the name and song from the petek that Rabbi Odesser revealed: Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman.
https://youtu.be/gSoMvDJyp0w ( after 1st 30 seconds)
Our version of Hare Krishna
( A lot of Jews in oriental mysticism: Baba Ram Das( Richard Alpert). I first heard Hare Krishna from the poet Allen Ginsburg)
· לעולם אל יהא אדם זקן. לא צדיק זקן ולא חסיד זקן. הזקנה מידה מגונה היא, חייב אדם להתחדש תמיד, מתחיל וחוזר ומתחיל
o L'olam al yehe adam zaken, lo tzadik zaken v'lo hasid zaken. Hazikna mida meguna hi, hayav adam l'hithadesh tamid, mathil v'hozer u'mathil
o One must never be old, neither an old saint nor an old follower. Being elderly is a vice; a man must always renew, begin and go back and begin anew
· 'אין יאוש בעולם כלל
o Ein ye'ush ba'olam klal.
o There is no despair in the world.
o “As the situation in the Warsaw Ghetto became more desperate for the Jews, Ringelblum’s archive still records the defiance of religious Jews in the face of Nazi terror. On February 19, 1941, the Oneg Shabbos records the following: In the prayer house of the Pietists from Braclow on Nowolipie Street there is a large sign: “Jews, Never Despair!” The Pietists dance there with the same religious fervor as they did before the war. After prayers one day, a Jew danced there whose daughter had died the day before.”
· אם אתה מאמין שיכולים לקלקל, תאמין שיכולים לתקן
o Im ata ma'amin sh'ykholim lekalkel, ta'amin sh'yecholim letaken.
o If you believe breaking is possible, believe fixing is possible.
· כל העולם כולו גשר צר מאוד, והעיקר - לא לפחד כלל.
o Kol ha'olam kulo gesher tzar me'od, veha'ikar lo le'fached klal.
o All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be overwhelmed by fear.
o זכור תמיד: השמחה איננה עניין שולי במסעך הרוחני – היא חיונית
o Z'khor tamid: ha'simha einena 'inyan shuli b'masa'akh ha'ruhani - hi hyunit.
o Always remember: happiness is not a side matter in your spiritual journey - it is essential.
· היום אתה חש מרומם. אל תתן לימות האתמול והמחר להשפיל את רוחך
o Hayom ata hash m'romam. Al titen l'ymot ha'etmol v'hamahar lehashpil at ruhekha.
o Today you feel uplifted. Do not let yesterday and tomorrow bring you down.
· נהוג לחשוב שהשכחה הינה חסרון. אני סבור שהיא יתרון. לדעת לשכוח, פירושו להשתחרר מכל תלאות העבר
o Nahug lahshov sh'hashikh'ha hina hisaron. Ani savur sh'hi yitaron. Lada'at lishko'ah, peyrusho le'hishtahrer m'kol tla'ot ha'avar.
o It is customary to consider forgetfulness a disadvantage. I believe it is an advantage. Knowing to forget, means loosening the troubles of the past.
· אני יכול עכשיו לומר כל חכמי ישראל דומין עלי כקליפת השום. -
o I can now say: All the sages of Israel are in my estimation like a garlic peel.
It is a great mitzvah to always be happy. (LM2 34)
Mitzvah gedoylah lihyios besimchah tamid.
It is even good to do silly things in order to cheer oneself up. (ibid)
https://youtu.be/3LfNEPIa27k Here how the Breslavers keep happy in the streets-
When a person has a yearning for something and he brings it out into words, a soul is created. This soul flies in the air and reaches another person thereby awakening in him too a yearning. (Ibid)
Behold! Precious is the sigh (called ‘krechtz’) from a Jewish person (LM 8)
ENCOURAGEMENT AND TESHUVA
You need to have great stubbornness in the service of Hashem (ibid)
This is a great principal in Avodas Hashem – That a person has to begin everyday anew. (LM 261)
When a person falls from his level he should know that it’s heaven-sent, because going down is needed in order to go up, therefore he fell, in order that he arouses himself more to come close to Hashem. Advice for him - Begin anew to enter into service of Hashem as if you have never yet even begun (Ibid)
It is a great thing for a person to still have an evil inclination because then he is able to serve Hashem with the evil inclination itself. That is, to take all of the fire in his heart and channel it towards service of Hashem. For example, to pray with fiery passion of the heart, etc. For, if there is no evil inclination in a person his service cannot be complete. (LM2 49)
A person must know that “Gods glory fills the entire world” (Isiah 6), and “There is no place void of Him” (Tikunei Zohar), and “He fills all worlds and surrounds all worlds” (Zohar)… even in the most defiled places there is godliness, for He gives life to everything as it says, “And you give life to everything” (Nechemia 9). So even if a person is stuck in the lowest of places he cannot excuse himself and say “I cannot serve Hashem here because of all the thickness and materialism that attacks me always,” for even there you can find Him and cling to Him and do complete teshuva, “For it is not far from you” (devarim 30), only that in this place there are many garments.”(LM 33)
A person shouldn’t take upon himself added stringencies, as our Rabbis taught ‘The torah was not given to angels.’ This can make him fall from his service of Hashem. The greatest wisdom of all wisdoms is not to be wise at all, rather to be pure and honest with simplicity. (LM2 44)
You need to know that just as evil arrogance is a very bad character trait, so too a person needs to have holy arrogance. Because it is impossible to come to the true tzaddikim or to draw near to holiness without arrogance as our rabbis taught, “Be bold as a leopard” (LM 22:11) …On this it is said, “a timid person cannot be a learned person.” (LM 271)
SONG AND DANCE
When there are harsh judgments on the Jewish people, God forbid, through dancing and clapping ones hands, the judgments are sweetened (LM 10:1)
When one sings the words of prayer and the song resonates with great clarity and purity, he enclothes the shechina (divine presence) with luminous clothing (LM 42)
LOVE YOUR FELLOW LOVE YOURSELF
Know! You need to judge every person favorably, even someone who is completely wicked, you need to search and find any little bit of good. By finding in him a little good and judging him favorably you actually bring him over to the side of merit and you can return him in teshuva (LM 282)
A person also needs to find in himself a little bit of good. Because no matter how low a person is, how can it be that he didn’t do one good thing in his entire life? (ibid)
Every single Jew has a point in them that is uniquely precious. And it is with this point that he bestows upon, enlightens, and arouses the heart of others. We all need to accept this arousal and this unique point from each other. As it says, “And they receive one from another” (Isaiah 3). (LM 34)
Every single Jew has in him a portion of God above. (LM 35)
PERSONAL REDEMPTION AND ENLIGHTENMENT
When a person knows that everything that happens to him is for the best, this is a taste of the world to come. (LM 4)
Know that the primary essence of exile is only our lack of belief. (LM 7)
Gan Eiden and Geihinom are literally in this world. (Ibid 22)
Rebbe Nachman would often tell his students about the great level that he reached in order to get them jealous and inspire them to serve Hashem like he does. One time someone responded to him, “Who can possibly reach the level of the Tzaddkim like yourself, certainly you were all created with really great souls.” Rebbe Nachman answered him in a stringent manner; “This is the main problem with you all, that you think the greatness of the Tzaddikim are due to their high level of soul, that is not true, every single person can reach my level and be exactly like me. It all depends on effort and honest work.” (sichos haran 165).
“Know and believe, if its possible to take one person out of the garbage dump, anyone who holds on to that person will come out as well.” (SH 209)