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
Most people see forgetting as a problem, but I see it as a great benefit. If you never forgot anything, it would be impossible to serve God because remember ing everything from the past, you would never be able to lift yourself up to God. Whatever you tried to do, you would constantly be disturbed by your memories of the past. But having the power to forget, you do not need to be disturbed by the past. This is very important when trying to serve God. Most people are troubled by the past, especially when trying to pray. Precisely then their minds become filled with all kinds of distracting thoughts about their business, household and other affairs. They worry that maybe they did something wrong or should have acted differently. When a person tries to pray or study, he can easily become troubled by thoughts about past wrongdoings and personal failings. This is a universal problem, as we all know.
One sigh of regret over your sins and great distance from God is worth more than many fasts and other forms of self-mortification. The sighs you emit when you desire something holy can actually break the force of your bodily urges, enabling your soul to draw nearer to your body and communicate to it something of her own perception of God.
People should make it their business to talk to others about the purpose of life. For "He did not create (the world) to be desolate, He formed it to be inhabited" (Isaiah 45:18). We all have an obligation to try to make this world a civilized place - a world filled with people who are true humans, Children of Adam, as the Torah says: "And fill the earth" (Genesis 1:28). The world is a civilized place only when filled with true Children of Adam, people who possess awareness and knowledge of God. A world without people who know God is a world of desolation and emptiness. Those who do not have this awareness cannot be called Children of Adam.
Sometimes a group of people happily dancing together take hold of someone who is standing miserable and depressed on the outside. They pull him into the dance circle despite himself, forcing him to rejoice with them. Similarly, when a person is happy, his pain and sadness may move to the sidelines. But a higher level is to pursue the sadness itself and "pull it into the dance circle," turning it into joy. If you truly set your mind to it, you will find that even amidst your worst troubles and suffering there is always a way you can turn all your sadness into joy. True joy is when you forcibly transform your very sadness and depression into happiness.
In time to come, at the end of history in its present form, "nature" as we understand it will disappear and the world will be governed only by providence. "For the heavens will vanish away like smoke and the earth will be worn out like a garment" (Isaiah 51:6). This means that the natural order as governed by the system of stars and planets will no longer operate as such. The expression "vanish away" in the verse signifies that all the constellations will be thrown into confusion and become mixed up. Stellar influences and "fate" will no longer dominate; everything will be governed only by God's providence. The Jewish People will then be in the ascendant.
Keeping your mind intently focused on your goal can also help you in studying the Torah. For example, you could focus intently on the thought that you want to complete all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch. You could calculate that if you study five pages every day you could complete all four sections in a single year. Picture in your mind exactly how you will go about this course of study. Concentrate so strongly that you are literally obsessed with the thought. The same approach can also be applied to other studies, such as the Bible or the Talmud and its commentaries. If your desire is strong and your concentration sufficiently intense, your plans will be accomplished.
Much good advice exists about different ways of coming closer to God, but in most cases it is very hard to carry out the actual advice. Therefore the main thing is prayer and supplication. Regardless of who you are or the circumstances in which you find yourself, always try to offer some prayer and request to God to take you from darkness to light and bring you to complete repentance. Give Him no quiet until He answers you. Even if you cry to God for a very long time and He still seems very far away, if you are persistent in your prayers, He will certainly answer you eventually and draw you to His service.
One who is dependent on other people finds it easier to pray alone, because as soon as he prays with others he becomes subject to all kinds of false motives. His prayer becomes a lie because he feels he must put on an act in order to impress others. This is because he needs them for something. Some depend on others for their livelihood. Even a person of independent means may still depend on others for his own self-esteem, because he needs their approval or adulation. Such needs can easily cause a person to put on a false act for others as he prays. Someone else may be more honest. Being somewhat in awe of God, he would feel ashamed to act out a cheap lie in his prayers merely to impress. He would like to pray truthfully - but his truth is excessive. And therefore it is not really the truth, because there is no such thing as excess truth: there is only one truth. Such a person would be ashamed to think of himself as lying outright in his prayers, so he tries to cover over the lie with truth. For example, he may want to make a gesture of piety - perhaps a clap of the hands - to impress someone. Only he is ashamed to do it merely to impress. Accordingly he deceives himself: his evil urge leads him on a trail of thought which persuades him that he really does need to make such a gesture as part of his prayer. He finds a rationalization for his gesture or handclap, a veneer of truth to cover up the lie. But he has much too much truth. For the fact is that there is only one truth: to pray truthfully to God and God alone. But this person has multiple truths. He uses many different truths to cover the underlying falsehood. This is all because he depends on others, and this is why he is filled with false motives. He produces a truth to persuade himself that his intention is really this or that... Yet in reality there is only one truth.
Pray with great strength, putting all your power into the words of your prayers. You must force yourself to pray. Some people say that a person should not force himself to pray, but the opposite is true. You must force yourself to put all your strength into your prayers. True devotion is to bind the thought to the word, focusing your mind on the words of the prayers by listening and paying careful attention to what you are saying. This way your inner power will enter your prayers automatically. All your inner power waits for the moment when it is drawn into words of holiness. When you focus your thoughts on what you are saying, this power rushes forth into the words. Simply pay attention to the words and your inner power will enter your prayers without your having to force it.
Sometimes a sin can make a person so bitter that he repents completely.
Inevitably you must encounter all kinds of difficulties and setbacks. You will fall down many times before you can enter the gates of holiness. Even the greatest Tzaddikim have gone through all this. There are cases when a person is already at the gate of holiness, only to slide back because of these difficulties. When a person is close to the gate, the forces of evil try to prevent him from entering. This pushes some people into retreat. That is the way of the Evil One: when he sees a person literally at the gates, he attacks more powerfully than ever. That is why you need to be so strong.
Know that the only reason we experience pain and suffering is because of a lack of Da'at, Godly knowledge and awareness. One who possesses this knows that everything is sent by God and therefore he feels no pain or suffering, because "God gave and God took" (Job 1:21). It is true that there is a certain kind of suffering that is inevitable. This is the pain felt when the soul leaves the body, the pain of illness that comes when the soul begins to separate itself from the body. The soul is so tightly bound to the body in this life that one inevitably feels pain at the moment of separation. Nevertheless this suffering is easy to bear if one knows clearly that everything is under God's providence. All the more does this apply to other kinds of pain and suffering, which a person who possesses Godly awareness does not feel at all. The main reason a person feels pain and suffering is that his Godly awareness is taken from him.
My book Likutey Moharan is the beginning of the Redemption. Now that it has come out, I very much want people to study it. They should study it until they know it by heart, because it is filled with guidance and has the power to arouse men to God in a way nothing else can compare with. Those who study it carefully have no need for any other work on ethics and moral guidance.
One who shows love to others is himself shown love.
Prayer helps for everything. Even if a person is unable to study Torah, he will be able to do so if he prays for it. Everything good can be attained through prayer: Torah, devotion, holiness... everything good in all the worlds! Amen.
Sometimes it may even be necessary to behave in a way that seems foolish in order to serve God and carry out His will. We may have to roll around in mud and mire for the sake of serving God and keeping His commandments. This applies not only to explicit mitzvot. Anything that God wants us to do is also called a mitzvah. Sometimes one has to throw oneself into the very mud and mire to perform a certain deed that will be pleasing to God.
It is a great mitzvah to be happy always! Make every effort to maintain a happy, positive outlook at all times. It is a natural human tendency to become discouraged and depressed because of the hard ships of life: everyone has their full share of suffering. That is why you must force yourself to be happy at all times. Use every possible way to bring yourself to joy, even by joking or acting a little crazy!
Know that there is healing to be found in every kind of herb and grass.
My dear friend and brother: the basic rule is to keep firm and be strong. Try with all your strength to be persistent in your devotions. Pay no attention to all these discouraging thoughts. And if you are very far from God and you feel that your every movement must be a blemish in God's eyes, you should know that on the contrary, if someone is all that coarse and materialistic, even the slightest motion he makes to try to detach himself from his physicality and turn towards God is very great and precious. If he moves no more than a hairsbreadth in his efforts to purify himself and come closer, that hairsbreadth makes him run thousands and thousands of miles in the worlds above. If you think about this, it will make you very happy. Indeed you should make a great effort always to be happy, because depression can cause tremendous damage. You should know that as soon as a person wants to start serving God, it is a very grave sin for him to be depressed. Depression comes from the Other Side, which God hates.
One who truly desires to draw closer to God should have faith that regardless of how much bitterness or suffering he may endure, everything is being sent to him out of love. If the suffering were really in proportion to the magnitude of his sins it would have been far greater. He would have been much too weak to bear it and he would have been totally lost. But God in His love only sends as much bitterness and suffering as a person can bear. This much he must bear, and it is certainly within his power to endure it
Prayer is the root of all attachment and devotion to God. Prayer is the gate through which we approach God, and through prayer we may come to know Him.
Sometimes when people don't want to suffer a little, they end up suffering a lot!
It is best to pray early in the morning. Prayer is of supreme importance - who knows if you will be able to pray later? Make every effort to pray as early as you possibly can.
Know therefore that whenever you encounter very great obstacles in any holy pursuit, you should infer from this just how great and precious is the object of your desire. This is why the obstacle is so great. If your desire is very strong, you will certainly be able to accomplish what you want and bring it from potential to actual. For the main purpose of the obstacle is to strengthen the desire. When the strength of your desire matches the strength of the obstacle, the obstacle becomes surmountable.
Never give up hope! There is no despair.