Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav or Breslov, aka Reb Nachman Breslover or Nachman from Uman

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav or Breslov, aka Reb Nachman Breslover or Nachman from Uman
1772
1810

Founder of the Breslov Hasidic Movement, Great Grandson of the Baal Shem Tov

Author Quotes

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.

Speech is a "mother of children" (Psalms 113:9). Just as a mother always stays with her child and never forgets him even if he goes to the filthiest of places, so the power of speech never leaves a person even if he finds himself in the filthiest of places.

The fervor with which you dance is "a fire offering, a sweet savor to the Lord" (Numbers 28:8). However, when a person dances with the heat of the evil inclination, this is a "strange fire" (Leviticus 10:1), while the wine he drinks is the "wine of drunkenness", which allows the forces of impurity to take hold. Holy dance has the same power to sweeten harsh judgments as a redemption performed by a Tzaddik.

The most important thing of all is to look to God at all times with longing and yearning, even when things are not going as well as you would like in your prayers and devotions. Never despair, no matter what. And as soon as God gives you the opportunity to do something holy, do it at once.

The very fact that we cannot understand the mystery of free will is precisely what gives us our freedom. In time to come, men's minds will expand and the secrets of free will and providence will be revealed. Free will as such will then disappear. Man's mind will emerge from its limitations and he will become like an angel having no free will.

Think only about the present day and the present moment. When someone wants to serve God, he may see it as a heavy burden. But if you remember that you have only today, it won't be such a burden. Don't push off serving God from one day to the next, saying, "I'll start tomorrow - tomorrow I'll pray with real devotion."

Trying to pray is like offering a sacrifice. "For Your sake we are killed every day, we are counted like sheep for the slaughter" (Psalms 44:23). This verse speaks of prayer as a sacrifice. When a person wants to pray, he encounters many distractions. Even so, he gives himself over completely to his prayers, making every effort to focus all his thoughts on the words he is saying and their meaning. Even if his prayers are not perfect, his very efforts are a sacrifice, as it says: "For Your sake we are killed every day." The same applies to all acts of service of God. You may desire to perfect yourself but find you cannot do so completely. Even so, all your pain and efforts are not wasted. They all count as offerings to God: "For Your sake we are killed every day, we are counted like sheep for the slaughter." You should therefore always do your part and make every effort to serve God as best as you can. What is up to you, do with all your might. Keep trying even if all your efforts seem to be frustrated and all your attempts seem to be in vain. Do everything in your power and God will do what is good in His eyes.

When a person finally attains a holy goal, all his earlier obstacles become transformed into the most exalted things.

Speech is the breath of the lips of the Holy One, blessed be He. To abuse it is to turn it into a "raging storm? wind" (Psalms 148:8). This raging storm wind is the great accuser - the source of all man's trials and challenges. This wild spirit erodes man's very flesh. It is the root of all the slander, falsehood and evil that people speak about each other. It is called the "end of all flesh" (Genesis 6:13) because it wastes and destroys man's flesh and his very life. All this is the result of abusing speech.

The greater the object of desire, the greater the obstacle! There are three factors involved: the desire itself, the person who has it and the object of his desire. The desire must be strong in proportion to the greatness of its object. When the object of desire is very great, the person needs very strong desire to attain it. He is then confronted with a very great obstacle in order to make his desire all the stronger, because the greater the obstacle, the stronger the desire that is needed to overcome it.

The musician playing the instrument must gather the good spirit - the spirit of prophecy - and separate it from the sad, depressed spirit. He must understand music in order to know how to sift out and gather up the parts of the spirit and put them together in order to construct the melody, namely the joy, in order to build the good, prophetic spirit, which is the opposite of the depressed spirit. He must move his hand up and down the instrument in order to channel the joy and bring it to perfection.

The way a person dresses offers one a glimpse into their inner character.

Thirst is a very great desire. It is wonderful to long, yearn and thirst for God. The greater your thirst for water, the greater your pleasure when you reach water and drink. Therefore the pleasure is caused by the thirst! The same is true of holy longing and yearning for God and for true devotion. This will be the main delight of the world to come, which will be a time of desire and longing. This is the "desire of all desires", the level to which Moses ascended when he left the world. Likewise Abraham paid "four hundred silver shekels" for his final resting place (Genesis 23:16). The holy Zohar says these are the four hundred worlds of yearning that the Tzaddikim will inherit in the future. They are worlds of yearning because then we will be worthy of true thirst and yearning for God. Quenching this thirst will be the main delight of the future world.

We call the reward in the world to come "good" because there is simply no other term to describe it. Yet even the word "good" is quite inadequate, because this reward is far beyond good. Still, the only way to explain it to people is by calling it good, although in truth, "no eye has seen it, other than God" (Isaiah 64:3).

When a person follows his own mind and clever ideas, he can fall into many pitfalls and errors and come to great evil. Tremendous damage has been caused by such people, like the infamous great villains who, through their intelligence and cunning, have led the entire world astray.

Starting to give charity is very difficult and onerous. For all acts of true repentance and service of God require many cries and groans and strenuous contortions before one can succeed. The hardest part is starting, because "all beginnings are difficult" (Mechilta, Yitro). Many cries and groans are needed before one can begin. Even after beginning, devotion never comes easily. It takes many strenuous efforts before one can achieve something of true worth. But starting is the hardest part of all.

The greatest of all barriers are those in the mind - when the person is divided from God or from the Tzaddik in his own mind and heart. A person may have come to the Tzaddik despite all the physical obstacles. But if some small doubt about the Tzaddik then arises in his mind, causing his heart to falter, this is the greatest obstacle of all. Similarly, a person encounters many obstacles when he wants to pray. However, if after overcoming them all he is ready to pray but his heart is contorted and turned away from God, this is the greatest obstacle of all.

Author Picture
First Name
Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav or Breslov, aka Reb Nachman Breslover or Nachman from Uman
Birth Date
1772
Death Date
1810
Bio

Founder of the Breslov Hasidic Movement, Great Grandson of the Baal Shem Tov