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
Speaking derogatorily about other people reinforces the hold of fantasy and illusion over us. When people use bad language and speak derogatorily about others, their spiritual awareness and understanding are withdrawn from them and they fall from the love of God and descend into animalistic passions and desires. The source of these passions and desires is man's faculty of imagination, which is part of his animal nature. Imagination feeds on falsehood and slander and is directly opposed to the faculty of memory with which we keep our true situation in this life and our eternal destiny in the forefront of our minds.
The essence of Teshuvah is an earnest search for God's glory. When a person sees that he is far from God's glory, he yearns for it. He asks, labors and toils: Ayeh? - "Where is the place of His glory?" This itself is his answer, his repentance and his remedy. Understand this well.
The Misnagdim (opponents of the Chassidim) say that the main thing is to study Torah. The Chassidim say the main thing is prayer. But I say: Pray and study and pray.
The ultimate goal of all knowledge of God is to realize that one knows nothing. Yet even this is unattainable. A person may come to realize his own ignorance, but only in a certain area on a particular level. There is still the next level, which he has not even touched. He does not know enough about the next level to begin to realize his ignorance. No matter how high he climbs, there is always the next step. A person therefore knows nothing: he cannot even understand his own ignorance. For there will always be a level of ignorance beyond his present level of perception.
There was once a very rich man who possessed countless wealth. He announced that anyone who needed to borrow money should come to him and he would give him a loan. Needless to say, large numbers of people were only too eager to take up his offer, and they came and borrowed money. The rich man had a notebook in which he kept a record of all the loans he gave. One day, glancing through his notebook, he noticed that he had given out enormous sums of money in loans yet not a single person had bothered to pay back their debts. Naturally, he was very upset. Among the people who had taken a loan was a certain man who had lost his money in an unsuccessful business venture. He had nothing with which to repay his debt. It troubled him greatly that he was unable to pay, and he decided that the least he could do would be to go in person to the rich man and explain the whole problem and say that it was not his fault. The debtor came to the rich man and started explaining how he had received a loan from him but when the time came to repay the debt he was unable to do so because he had lost his money, and he had no idea what to do. "What do I care about the money you owe me?" replied the rich man. "Of what significance is the tiny sum you owe me, whether you pay it or not, compared with the total sum of all the loans, which runs into tens of thousands? What I want you to do is to go to all the people who borrowed from me and ask them for the money. Remind them how much they owe me and ask them why they don't settle with me. Even if they don't pay everything, if each one would just pay back a small part of his debt, that alone would come to thousands of times more than the entire sum you yourself owe." It is clear from this story why, having received so much kindness from God, we all have an obligation to encourage others to turn to Him too.
True life is to delight in God. Some people achieve this even in this world; others not at all. Spiritual life contains the same multiplicity of gradations that exist on the level of physical life.
When a person eats in holiness and purity, his physical face and the inner "face" that is his soul become radiant as a result. But if he eats without holiness, the food harms his heart causing him to lose this inner face, so that he falls into a "sleep". He may still imagine he is serving God, occupied as he is with Torah and prayer. But he is "asleep" in the sense that his devotions remain in the lower worlds and God has no delight in them.
Speech has tremendous power. If you know how, you can even whisper to a gun so that it cannot shoot.
The Evil Urge is like a prankster running through a crowd waving his tightly closed hand. No- one knows what's in it. He goes up to each person asking, "What do you think I have in my hand?" Each person imagines the closed hand contains exactly what he most desires, and that is why everyone runs after this prankster, believing the hand contains exactly what they want. But afterwards he opens his hand - and it's completely empty! The same is true of the Evil Urge. He tricks the whole world into following him. Everyone thinks his hand contains what they desire. But in the end he opens his hand - and it's empty! No desire is ever fulfilled!
The more you draw yourself to God, the more you must realize how far you are from Him. When a person believes that he has succeeded in achieving closeness to God and understanding of Him, it is a sign that he does not know anything at all. If he did, he would understand that he is very far from God and knows absolutely nothing, because God's greatness is without limits.
The ultimate goal of the entire creation is Unity: "On that day God will be One and His name One" (Zechariah 14:9). The prophet speaks of "that day" - a future time, when the goal of the creation will have been attained: God will be One. This ultimate goal is entirely good. For oneness - unity - is entirely good, as we learn from the comment of the Rabbis on this verse in Zechariah: "On that day HaShem will be One and His name One." - "Is this meant to imply," asked the Rabbis, "that right now He is not One? Of course not! What it means is that in our present state, we make a distinction between the different kinds of experiences God sends us in life. When bad things happen, we bless God as 'the true Judge', while when good things happen, we bless Him as 'the good and beneficent'. But in time to come we will bless Him for everything as 'the good and beneficent'" (Pesachim 50a). Thus we see that unity is the ultimate goal and this goal is entirely good.
They have left this good heritage to us and our duty is to accept it with the utmost joy.
Try to go through all our holy books in the course of your lifetime, so that you will have visited every place in the Torah.
When a person falls from his level he should know that this is sent from Heaven. The purpose of the apparent rejection is to draw him closer. The reason for the fall is to spur the person to make even greater efforts to draw closer to God. The thing to do is to make an entirely new start. Start serving God as if you had never started in your whole life. This is one of the most basic principles of serving God. We must literally begin all over again every day.
It is very important to study Halachah - the practical laws of the Torah. If you can, study all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch (the classic code of Torah law as it applies in our times) in order from beginning to end. Otherwise, study one of the concise guides that explain the laws of daily life.
Many irrelevant thoughts may come into your mind while you pray. Don't pay any attention to them at all. Simply do your part: say your prayers in the proper order, ignoring all disturbing thoughts. These extraneous thoughts are actually of great benefit. Without them prayer would be impossible. Tremendous maligning powers seek to denounce our prayers, but these irrelevant thoughts disguise our prayers so that unholy forces disregard them, enabling our prayers to enter on high.
Nor is there any need for sophistication. Just be sincere and simple. Even in your sincerity, you must not be foolish. But sophistication is totally unnecessary.
Other people have tremendous power to influence a person and deter him from serving God and from drawing close to the true Tzaddik. The power of other people is greater even than the power of a person's own evil urge. The power of a particular individual's evil urge reaches only as far as the specific world in which it is rooted. Man, however, includes all the worlds. For this reason the obstacles caused by other people can be greater than those of the evil urge itself.
Some people say that if you pray with true inner intention and are wholly focused on your prayers, you should not hear any outside disturbance because your devotion will be strong enough to block out everything else. This is not true. Even the greatest Tzaddik would be distracted and distressed if, while praying with outstanding intensity and devotion, someone approached him and disturbed or ridiculed him.
It is vital to rouse such people from their sleep, but this is only possible if they first begin to stir on their own. The tales and stories told by the Tzaddikim have the power to rouse those who are asleep so that their days will not be wasted. It is a great privilege to find a Tzaddik who has the power to rouse you from your sleep. Otherwise you could sleep away all your days, God forbid.
Many people have ridiculous phobias which they themselves know to be ungrounded, yet they cannot control them. For example, when a person is taken by surprise by a group of people coming at him from behind with fearful shouts, he instantly feels fear even before he is consciously aware of what it is behind him. Since the object of his fear has not yet entered his conscious mind, why should he be afraid if not because of this innate something that causes him to fear? The same is true of desire. Even when a person knows that his desire is vain and foolish, something inside him continues to feel the desire. Here again, it is not the person who desires, but something else within him. If you learn to understand yourself, you can easily rid yourself of all fears and desires. Once you realize that they are baseless and that only this something inside you causes the fear or desire, you will be able to overcome everything. You have free will, and you can easily train your mind to avoid the thing inside you that causes these fears and desires.
Nor is there any need to be extreme. Serving God is not fanaticism. The real fanatics are those who pursue the material world without serving God. People consider it fanatical when a person completely abandons the material world to immerse himself wholly in devotion. Yet even this is unnecessary. You can serve God without going to extremes.
Our rabbis have taught that it is proper for each person to choose for himself one mitzvah to observe with particular care in all its fine details (Shabbat 118b). Yet even with your chosen mitzvah, you should not be excessively strict to the point of folly. Don't let it make you depressed. Simply try to keep the mitzvah carefully in all its finer points, but without excessive punctiliousness. As for the other mitzvot, simply follow the essential laws without adding extra stringencies. If only we could keep all the mitzvot of the Torah according to the simple interpretation of the law without seeking to go beyond it! There is no need to look for extra stringencies: this is foolish and confusing. The essence of serving God is simplicity and sincerity. Pray much, study much Torah and carry out many good deeds without seeking out or inventing unnecessary restrictions. Simply follow the path of our forefathers. "The Torah was not given to ministering angels." There is nothing that you absolutely must do or else. If you can, you can. But if you cannot: "God exempts a person under duress" (Bava Kama 28b).
Someone who lusts after money, will find that he will not be able to maintain his standards for too long.
In this material world, especially if we have sinned and are very far from God, the main way to attach ourselves to God is through melody and song.