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 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.
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.
When a person rises from level to level in this world, never ceasing to make fresh advances in serving God, so too in the world to come he will continue rising from level to level.
When things are very bad, make yourself into nothing. How do you make yourself into nothing? You close your mouth and your eyes, and you are like nothing! Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed by the evil urge. You are racked with confusion and negative thoughts, finding it impossible to overcome them. You must then make yourself like nothing. Anyone can do this. Close your mouth and your eyes and don't think about anything - as if you have no mind and no thoughts. You are completely nullified before God.
Who can say that he serves God according to God's true greatness? Someone who has even the faintest conception of God's greatness cannot understand how anyone could claim to serve Him. Even the highest angel cannot boast that he is able to serve God. The main thing is desire. Always long and yearn to come closer to God. Many people would like to serve God but not all have the same desire. There are many different levels of desire. Even in one and the same person, the intensity of his desire may change from moment to moment. The main thing is to yearn constantly for God - and in between, to pray, study and keep His commandments.
When a person sinks to these "filthy places", he is filled with doubts, questions and confusion. But when he starts examining himself and sees how far he is from God's glory and begins asking and searching, Ayeh? - " Where is the place of God's glory?" - this is the essence of the solution. He sees for himself that, having sunk to such places, he is far from God's glory. When he asks Ayeh? - "Where?" - this is his way to rise up and transform his fall into a great ascent. For the purpose of the descent is to lead to an ascent. Ayeh? -"Where is the place of His glory?" This alludes to the exalted glory of the highest utterance, Bereishit, which is the source of the life-force of these places. Therefore when a person searches in earnest, Ayeh? - "Where is the place of His glory?" - this itself brings him back and he rises to the highest glory, Ayeh, which because of its great concealment gives life to these places. Having fallen there, by then searching Ayeh? - "Where is the place of His glory?" - he returns and connects himself to this exalted place, injecting new vitality into his very fall, and he can then rise to the most exalted heights.
When we consider God's utter greatness - if we can form any conception of it at all - and think of our own smallness and worthlessness, how can we stand up and pray before Him? Even so, when we pray, we must cast our timidity aside and boldly ask God for everything we need. Only with bold assertiveness can we overcome the obstacles and barriers that stand in the way of our service of God.
Whoever becomes intoxicated is certain to do at least some damage in one way or another.
When a person sins, it makes a big difference if he comes to his senses at once and repents, in which case it is easy for him to return to his place because he has not yet strayed too far from the good path. For when a person sins, he turns from the straight path and enters a different, twisting pathway. A multitude of wrong turns branch off into ever deeper error and corruption. The person may stray so far and become so entangled that it is very hard for him to turn back and get off the wrong track.
When we give charity, our main task is to break our innate cruelty, turning it into kindness in order to give generously. This is the main service involved in the act of charity. When one who is kind by nature gives charity purely out of instinct, this cannot be called an act of service because even certain animals are kind by nature. The main task is to break one's innate cruelty and turn it into kindness in order to give charity.
Why do people shed tears when in pain? Tears draw down God's providence. This we learn from the rabbinic interpretation of the verse, "And the clouds return after the rain" (Ecclesiastes 12:2) - "This refers to a person's vision, which becomes weaker through tears" (Shabbat 151a). From this we learn that tears take away part of one's vision. The fact that tears weaken a person's eyesight and take part of it away means that the vision is drawn into the tears. And this is why people shed tears when in pain. When a person feels pain and suffering, it means he needs God's providence to be saved. This is why people cry, so as to bring down and reveal God's watchful providence. For the providence and vision are drawn into the tears. This is why "Hezekiah wept greatly" (Isaiah 38:3) when he fell sick. Through his tears he drew down God's watchful providence, which is the concept of "greatness" and prayer.
When a person stands in prayer, reciting the words of the prayers, he is gathering beautiful flowers and blossoms, like someone walking in a meadow picking lovely flowers and blossoms one by one until they make a bunch. Then he picks more, one by one, until they make another bunch, and he puts them together. So he goes on, picking and gathering more and more lovely bouquets. So it is in prayer: one goes from letter to letter, until several letters are joined together to make a syllable. One does the same to make whole words. Then one joins together two words, and goes on, picking and gathering, until one completes a whole blessing. Then one goes on picking more and more, and passes from the first blessing of the Amidah prayer - the blessing of the fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - to the second, which speaks of God's might. One then proceeds to the third blessing, which speaks of His holiness, and so on. Who can adequately praise the great splendor of the gleanings and gatherings one makes with the words of the prayer?
When words and cries don't help, cry deep in your heart without letting out a sound.
Why does Ezekiel stress that Abraham was one? Because Abraham based his whole service of God on the fact that he was alone. He looked on himself as the only person in the world - as if everything was up to him - and paid no attention whatever to all the other people who had turned away from God and who were putting obstacles in his way. Abraham paid no attention to his father or any of the other people who tried to stop him. He carried on as if he was alone in the world. That is the meaning of Ezekiel's statement: "Abraham was one." In the same way, anyone who wants to begin serving God can do so only if he thinks of himself as being alone in the world so that everything is up to him. He must pay no attention whatever to anyone who tries to hold him back - not even if it is his own father and mother or in-laws, wife and children. He should pay no attention to any others who try to mock him or entice him to give up or otherwise stand in his way. Just as "Abraham was one", so too he must look on himself as if he is alone in the world and everything depends on him.
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.