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Rebbe Nachman

Breslov Chassidus was founded by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Rabbi Nachman was the great grandson of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, who led one of the greatest spiritual revivals-renewals ever to occur among the Jewish people, two hundred years ago.

Rabbi Nachman followed in the tradition of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Isaac Luria and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Rabbi Luria, known as the Arizal, lived in the 16th century and was one of the greatest luminaries and expounders of Jewish mystical and spiritual thought. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was the author of the Zohar.

The Message of Breslov Chassidus is one of Simcha-Happiness, Simple prayer, Faith in G-d, Finding the Tzaddik-Mashiach. Discovering the good points in yourself and others, and Finding how to serve G-d with every aspect of your being: Your mind, Your talents, Your emotions. If you are a musician, be a musician for HaShem... If you are a mechanic, be a mechanic for HaShem... It is a great Mitzvah to be Joyous always!

Thriving in Israel and elsewhere worldwide, Breslov Chassidus is one of the fastest growing Jewish movements. It encompasses a diverse group of communities, and spans the entire spectrum of Jewish thought, with special appeal to artists and musicians.


What is a Breslover Hasid? Since Breslov is the Hasidic group I belong to, I get this question a lot. So those of you who are from other Hasidic groups will please excuse the extra space devoted to Breslov here. (smile)

The Breslov movement was founded by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), who was the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism. Breslover Hasidim usually refer to him as "Rebbe Nachman" or "Rabbenu" (rah-BAY-noo, meaning "our teacher." or simply "the Rebbe" (different from the Lubovitcher Rebbe mentioned above.)

Rebbe Nachman is buried in the town of Uman (OO-mahn) in the Ukraine, which is not far from Breslov. Each year there is a major pilgrimage of Breslover Hasidim who travel to Uman to celebrate Rosh Hashanah (ROSH ha-SHAH-nah, Jewish New Year) near the gravesite.

The name Breslov itself comes from the town of Breslov, where Rebbe Nachman spent most of the last eight years of his life. Breslov is not Breslau or Bratzlav or Bratislava, although all of these mistakes appear in various books about Rebbe Nachman. So just where is the Breslov of Hasidic fame? Well, folks, I can tell you EXACTLY where it is: Breslov is located in the Ukrainian Republic. It is a small town along on the Bug River, latitude 48.50 N longitude 28.55 E, midway between Tulchin to the south and Nemirov to the north; 9 miles (or 15 kilometers) from each. Program that into your GPS equipment and you won't get lost on your way to Breslov! (On some maps the town is spelled Braclav, presumably a transliteration from Ukranian.)

Some people also see the name Breslov as a play on words in Askenazic Hebrew: Bris lev means "covenant (or circumcision) of the heart." The Breslov approach places greater stress on serving God through the heart, with much joy and living life as intensely as possible. It's a great mitzvah always to be happy, Rebbe Nachman taught.

One distinctively Breslov practice is hisboddidus (hiss-BO-de-duss) (also called hitbadedut in Israeli Hebrew), which literally means " to make oneself be in solitude. " The Breslover form of hisboddidus is a personalized form of free-flowing prayer which is practiced by the individual Hasid, in addition to the regular daily services in the synagogue. Breslover Hasidim try to spend an hour alone with God each day, pouring out their thoughts and concerns in whatever language they speak, as if talking to a close personal friend. (One does not have to be a Breslover Hasid to practice this technique.) Rebbe Nachman said that the best place to do this is alone in a field or a forest, but if this is not possible, one can do it in a private room.

Rebbe Nachman stressed the importance of personal soul-searching. He always maintained that his high spiritual level was due to his own efforts, and not to his famous lineage or any circumstances of his birth. He repeatedly insisted that all Jews could reach the same level as he, and spoke out very strongly against those who thought that the main reason for a Tzaddik's (Jewish saint's) greatness was the superior level of his soul.

Rebbe Nachman said: Everyone can attain the highest level. It depends of nothing but your own free choice... for everything depends on a multitude of deeds. (See the book, Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom, p.29)

Although Rebbe Nachman died almost 200 years ago, he is still considered to be the leader of the movement through the guidance of his books and stories. Breslover Hasidim today do not have a"Rebbe in the flesh," and each individual Hasid is free to go to any Jewish guide or teacher that he (or she) feels comfortable with. There is no single person or council of elders in charge of the Breslov movement, and there is no official membership list. There are, however, a number of groups which maintain mailing lists for those who are interested in receiving news about current Breslov projects and events.

Further information about Breslov beliefs, activities, and publications can be found at The Breslov Research Institute, which is in the process of doing excellent translations of Breslov writings into English. They have a lot of other good books and tapes as well. Then there's the Breslov on the Internet which is a link launcher to other Breslov-related websites in both English and Hebrew.

  • לעולם אל יהא אדם זקן. לא צדיק זקן ולא חסיד זקן. הזקנה מידה מגונה היא, חייב אדם להתחדשתמיד, מתחיל וחוזר ומתחיל

  • L'olam al yehe adam zaken, lo tzadik zaken v'lo hasid zaken. Hazikna mida meguna hi, hayav adam l'hithadesh tamid, mathil v'hozer u'mathil

  • One must never be old, neither an old saint nor an old follower. Being elderly is a vice; a man must always renew, begins and begins anew

  • יש מפורסמים שעיקר הפרסום שלהם נעשה על ידי מחלוקת

    • Yesh mefursamim sh'ikar hapirsum shelahem n'ase al yedey mahloket.

    • Some famous people owe their fame to controversy.

  • הכל אומרים שיש עולם הזה ועולם הבא. והנה בעולם הבא אנו מאמינים שישנו, אפשר שיש עולםהזה באיזה עולם, כי כאן נראה שהוא הגיהינום

    • Hakol omrim sh'yesh olam hazeh v'olam haba. V'hine, ba'olam habah anu ma'aminim sh'yeshno, efshar sh'yesh olam hazeh b'eize olam, ki kan nir'a sh'hu ha'geheinom.

    • All say there is this world and the next world. We believe in the next world, there might be this world, because here it looks like hell.

  • 'אין ייאוש בעולם כלל

    • Ein ye'ush ba'olam klal.

    • There is no despair in the world.

  • אם אתה מאמין שיכולים לקלקל, תאמין שיכולים לתקן

    • Im ata ma'amin sh'ykholim lekalkel, ta'amin sh'yecholim letaken.

    • If you believe breaking is possible, believe fixing is possible.

  • כל העולם כולו גשר צר מאוד, והעיקר - לא לפחד כלל.

    • Kol ha'olam kulo gesher tzar me'od, v'ha'ikar lo lefahed klal.

    • All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to fear at all.

  • 'זכור תמיד: השמחה איננה עניין שולי במסעך הרוחני - היא חיונית

    • Z'khor tamid: ha'simha einena 'inyan shuli b'masa'akh ha'ruhani - hi hyunit.

    • Always remember: happiness is not a side matter in your spiritual journey - it is essential.

  • 'היום אתה חש מרומם. אל תיתן לימות האתמול והמחר להשפיל את רוחך

    • Hayom ata hash m'romam. Al titen l'ymot ha'etmol v'hamahar lehashpil at ruhekha.

    • Today you feel uplifted. Do not let yesterday and tommorow to bring you down.

  • נהוג לחשוב שהשכחה הינה חסרון. אני סבור שהיא יתרון. לדעת לשכוח, פירושו להשתחרר מכלתלאות העבר

    • Nahug lahshov sh'hashikh'ha hina hisaron. Ani savur sh'hi yitaron. Lada'at lishko'ah, peyrusho le'hishtahrer m'kol tla'ot ha'avar.

    • It is customary to consider forgetfulness a disadvantage. I believe it is an advantage. Knowing to forget, means loosening the troubles of the past.

  • לבקר אחרים ולתת להם הרגשה שאינם רצויים - זאת יכול כל אחד לעשות. אך לרומם את רוחםולהעניק להם הרגשה טובה - לכך דרושים כישרון מיוחד והשקעת מאמץ

    • L'vaker aherim v'latet lahem hargasha she'eynam retzuim - zot yakhol kol ehad la'asot. Akh l'romem at ruham u'l'ha'anik lahem hargasha tova - l'khakh drushim kisharon m'yuhad v'hashka'at ma'amatz.

    • Criticising others, giving them an unwelcome feeling, can be done by anyone. Uplifting them and giving them a good feeling - that takes a special gift and spending effort.

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