Founder of the Breslov Hasidic Movement, Great Grandson of the Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav or Breslov, aka Reb Nachman Breslover or Nachman from Uman
Founder of the Breslov Hasidic Movement, Great Grandson of the Baal Shem Tov
You should reflect on the different situations and occurrences that God sends your way day by day. Each day has its own thoughts, words and deeds. They are all completely unique to that day. God "contracts" His infinite, endless Godliness in such a way that Godliness is present even in the innermost point of the finite material world in which man finds himself. Thus God sends to each individual the thoughts, words and deeds appropriate for the day, the person and the place. Within them are hints intended to draw the person closer to God's service. This is why you should pay attention to what happens to you and consider what it may signify. Think about the thoughts, words and deeds that God sends you each day in order to understand His hints to you to draw closer to Him at every moment. This applies to everyone, no matter who and in what circumstances.
Your wisdom disappears while you are angry.
You may be in some place when suddenly you have a thought of Teshuvah and a deep longing for God. Stop then and there in that very place and take a moment to focus on the thought and the feeling of longing. Turn them into a prayer. Put your longing into words straight from your heart. Don't wait or move on, even if you are not in your usual place of prayer and study - even if you are going on your way - because if you move on, it could interrupt your train of thought.
You may feel you have not even begun to enter the gates of holiness. You may see yourself as still being coarsely materialistic and feel that your mind is confused. No matter what you try to do to serve God, it seems as if the evil forces will not allow you to succeed. You may start thinking that God is paying no attention whatever, as if He has no interest in your devotions. You keep calling out to Him, pleading with Him to help you. Yet you feel as far away as ever. It takes tremendous determination to overcome all this. The key is to ignore all the discouragement. The truth is that all this apparent rejection has no other purpose than to bring you closer. All the Tzaddikim have had to endure this, as we know from their personal testimony. They too felt that God had no interest in them, because they saw how long they had been searching, putting in hard work and effort, yet they were still far away. If they had not determinedly ignored these feelings, they would have remained where they were in the first place and would never have achieved what they did.
You may have succumbed to the desires of this world and sinned in many ways. You may have damaged your mind, leaving it weak and confused. But you still have some intelligence. With this alone you can overcome all desires. One grain of intelligence can stand against the whole world and all its temptations. Wherever you are, you can be close to God. You can approach God and serve Him even in the lowest pit of hell. It needs tremendous effort, or help from God - or both - in order to subdue the impurities in the mind until you want nothing in this world and everything is the same to you. Then, "When you walk it will lead you, when you lie down it will watch over you, and when you wake up, it will comfort you" (Proverbs 6:22).
You must accept all your troubles and suffering in life with love. You must understand that, considering all the wrong you have done, God is actually treating you very mercifully and sending you less suffering than you really deserve. If God were to mete out the full punishment for your transgressions, you would have to suffer much more, God forbid. In the verse, "Love your friend like yourself" (Leviticus 19:18), the Hebrew word for "your friend", RE-acha, can also be read as RA-acha, "your bad". In other words, you must lovingly accept your suffering and all the bad things that happen to you. Because "...like yourself!" - considering the way you are and considering all your bad deeds, nevertheless, "I am God" - "I am full of compassion and I am treating you with great mercy."
You must be very careful to cultivate a good memory and not fall into forgetfulness. What is a good memory? It means keeping the world to come constantly in the forefront of your mind, never forgetting it. It would be very proper for every Jew to make it a daily habit, as soon as he opens his eyes in the morning, before doing anything else, to recall that the world to come is the only true goal. He should do this as soon as he wakes up.
You must be very stubborn in serving God. And even if you feel that you yourself are far from God, be sure not to discourage others. Do the very opposite: strengthen them in every way possible. Speak to them with words that restore the soul. By doing so, you too will eventually come back to serving God.
You should always try to be happy and serve God with joy, and even if you sometimes fall short of your level, you can still encourage yourself by thinking of earlier times when you did have a taste of the light.
You should be able to feel another person's pain in your heart - all the more so when many people are suffering. It is possible to know another person's pain and suffering yet still not feel them in your heart. When many people are suffering, you should certainly feel their pain in your heart. And if you do not feel it, you should knock your head against the wall: you should strike your head - your mind and intelligence - against the walls of your heart! This is the meaning of the words: "Know this day and realize it in your heart." (Deuteronomy 4:39). You must bring the realization from your mind into your heart. Understand this well.
You should constantly lift up your heart to God in exactly the same way. Go aside and cry out to God. For everyone is in great danger in this world - as you know very well deep inside your soul. Understand these words very carefully.
You should force yourselves to pray with great devotion, powerfully binding your thoughts to each word. True devotion means listening attentively to the words you are saying. It is not advisable to try to pray using the mystical intentions of the prayers as found in the Kabalistic writings - and this applies even to people who are fit to study such works. Perfect prayer is when you say the words of the prayers with complete simplicity: Baruch Atah. "Blessed are You." Listen carefully to what you are saying: concentrate on the meaning of the words. It is ridiculous to say that one should not force oneself to pray. Quite the contrary: you should pray with all your might and put all your strength into each letter of the words of the prayers. As to the disturbing thoughts that occur during prayer: ignore them completely. Keep doing your part, going systematically through the service in order, paying no attention to any distractions. Turn your mind away from all such thoughts completely. The prayer service and limbs of the body. It is impossible to pray the entire service with complete devotion, but each person can say a certain portion of the service with genuine feeling. One person may recite the passages dealing with the Temple incense offering with great feeling. Someone else may pray best during the Psalms of Pesukey DeZimra, the "Verses of Song".This is because the physical human body has a spiritual counterpart, each of whose limbs corresponds to a portion of the prayer service. Each person is associated with a particular limb of the transcendental form. When he reaches the section of the service relating to his limb, he is aroused to great devotion.
When a person starts to serve God and draw close to a true Tzaddik, he is often filled with negative thoughts and inner turmoil. This is like a pot of water which initially seems quite clear, but as soon as it is placed on the fire and starts to boil, all the impurities begin to surface. Someone has to stand there constantly removing the scum and impurities. At first the water appears perfectly clear, but as it heats up, more and more impurity surfaces. At last, however, when all the impurity is removed, the water is truly pure and clear. The same is true of a person. Before he starts serving God, good and evil are totally mixed up in him - so much so that the evil and impurity are not even discernible. But when he starts trying to serve God and draw close to a true Tzaddik, he begins the process of cleansing and purification. Each time, more evil and impurities rise to the surface. Here too one must stand by constantly removing the dirt and impurities as they appear, until in the end the person is truly pure and clear. Initially a person is totally immersed in the material. When he starts to draw closer to God, it might seem as if it should be possible to remove all this filth and impurity at once. But his mind is so totally mixed up with this mire that if it were to be removed all at once, he could lose his mind with it as well. One must be very patient until little by little one becomes completely pure.
When you find yourself presented with two opportunities to do good - do the most difficult first.
With every step a person takes and every single word he speaks as he goes about his business, he should bear in mind that his goal is to make a profit in order to give charity. This is the comprehensive remedy for wealth. Giving charity expands and elevates the mind, which brings blessing and livelihood.
When a person wants to purify himself and return to God, they tell him "Wait!" (Yoma 38b-39a). It is true that he should hurry to free his soul and escape the darkness. But he should not allow himself to become discouraged and dejected if he sees that he is far from true prayer and other holy devotions. Waiting patiently is a necessary part of the process. In the end he will be worthy of making amends completely and everything will be rectified.
When you give charity to Torah scholars, the money becomes actual Torah. No sin can extinguish the merit of giving money to Torah scholars. For no sin can extinguish the Torah, and the money given to Torah scholars is actual Torah.
With happiness you can give another person life! There are people who suffer terrible pain but cannot express what is in their heart. They would like to speak about their suffering but they have no- one to whom they can explain what is really in their heart. This leaves them full of pain and anguish. When you come to such a person with a smiling face, you can literally give that person life. To give a person life is not an empty gesture. It is something very great.
When after a life devoted to worldliness a person feels an arousal to God, the attribute of Judgment rises to accuse him and does not permit him to follow God's ways. It does this by confronting him with an obstacle. But God loves kindness and hides Himself within the very obstacle itself. One who lacks good sense sees the obstacle and retreats at once. But one who possesses good sense examines the obstacle and discovers God within it.
When you have purified your mind, there is no difference between this world, the grave, and the next world. When you only desire God and His Torah, all are the same. In all three you can be attached to God and his Torah. However, if you are attached to this world, there is an agonizing difference. This world is spread before you while the grave is tight and narrow. But when you purify your mind, all will be the same.
Yesterday and tomorrow are man's downfall. Today you may be aroused towards God. Don't let yourself become discouraged because of what may have happened yesterday or what may happen tomorrow. No matter where a person stands, there are always reverses. Many people become discouraged as a result, and stop putting any real effort into their devotions. That is why you must "Repent one day before your death."
When people seek to purify themselves and keep the Torah, they often feel overwhelmed with confusion and frustration. They encounter great obstacles in their path and they are uncertain what to do. The more they want to serve God, the harder it seems. Know that all your efforts to do the right thing are very precious in God's eyes even if you do not achieve your goal. All your efforts are counted as sacrifices.
When you just can't fall asleep, it's no use trying to force yourself to sleep. The more you try to force yourself, the more sleep will elude you. The same applies to many other things: it is not good to force yourself too much, because the more you try to force yourself, the stronger the opposing forces will become. At times this applies even to prayer and devotion. You should certainly make every possible effort to sanctify yourself and attain true devotion. When something can be done today, don't leave it for tomorrow - because the world never stops for a moment. Man's world consists only of the present. Whatever you can do to serve God, do immediately and determinedly without delay. Who knows what obstacles you may face from the outside and from within if you leave it until later? But at times you may see that, despite all your efforts and determination, you simply cannot achieve what you want. Sometimes you must simply wait. Don't be discouraged because you are not achieving what you want. Don't let this push you off course. You must wait a little until the time is ripe.
You can crease and wrinkle my book any way you like when it comes to your own interpretations - as long as you don't violate a single paragraph of the Shulchan Aruch.
When reciting Psalms and prayers, make sure you find yourself in everything you say. It is simple and easy to find yourself in all your prayers: you don't need to be clever. The Psalms in particular were written for the entire community of Israel and for each and every individual. All of a person's internal wars and struggles and everything else he endures are all expressed in the Psalms, which mainly relate to the war against the evil urge and its forces. These are the main enemies seeking to keep a person from the path of life and drag him down to the deepest hell if he is not on guard against them. The entire Book of Psalms is about this war. The foundation of all the different pathways to God lies in reciting Psalms and other supplications and offering our own personal prayers from the heart, entreating Him to draw us closer to His service. This is the only way to win the war. Happy is the man who persistently prays and entreats God at all times and in all situations, because he will certainly win the war.