"And merit us in your great mercy and send us True Tzaddikim of very
exceptional status. Who will be on the level of Moses our Teacher of blessed
memory. Who will have the strength to enter into those philisophical investigations
that extend from the "vacant void" and to break them and to nullify them
and to uproot them and to demolish them totally. And to extract from there
all the souls that have fallen there in their mistakes. And who will have
strength to arouse and to reveal the melody and song exalted and chosen
above all songs and melodies in the world. And through that he will remove
in peace all the souls that have fallen into mistakes and confusions and
heresy [denial of G-d and the True Tzaddikim] that extend from the "vacant
void". For You alone know the great pity that is upon [these fallen souls]".
[Likutay Tefillos* I:64]
RABBI MOSES FEINSTEIN
455 F.D.R. Drive
New York, New York 10002
I am writing on behalf of a most unusual individual, Rabbi Yisroel Dov Odesser shlita, from Israel. This individual is a Goan in Torah. I had the pleasure of recently meeting with him and was inspired by a secret document which he possesses.
Rabbi Odesser is soliciting funds to enable him to print Rabbi Nachman's seforim [books], and it is a great mitzvah to assist him in this endeavor. Hashem will reward all those that so assist him.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein
The Letter from Heaven, whose photograph appears on the cover of this book, was sent from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, who is buried in the city of Uman, in the Ukraine, to Rabbi Yisroel Odesser, in the city of Tiberias, Israel, in the year 5682 (1922).
Our Master and Teacher, of blessed memory, Rabbi Yisroel Ber ben Rivka Sheindel Odesser, who departed this world on 18 Marcheshvan 5755(1994) and whose grave is in the Har-Hamenuchot cemetery of Jerusalem (Burial Society "Chassidim", section 11-B).
Our Master's Teacher, of blessed memory, Rabbi Yisroel ben Yehuda Leib Karduner, who departed this world on 9 Marcheshvan 5679 (1918) and whose grave is in the old cemetery of Tiberias (Grave Number 530).
All the Jewish People, who are yearning to come close to the True Tzaddik who will bring us back to the Holy Torah, to Eretz Yisroel, and to our Father in Heaven, Amen.
[From Likutay Tefillos (Collected Prayers), by Rabbi Nosson of Nemirov, I:39]
Before his death in 5571 (1810), Rebbe Nachman was asked by his closest disciple, Rabbi Nosson, of blessed memory, whether he had completed everything that he had set out to accomplish in his lifetime. The Rebbe exclaimed, "I haven't finished? I've already finished, and I will finish!" [Chayay Moharan #229] He also said, "My fire will burn forever and never go out. My fire will burn until the Coming of the Messiah!" [Chayay Moharan #46]
On another occasion, the Rebbe was discussing the effect on the world of three great Tzaddikim: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai*, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria*, and Rabbi Yisroel Ba'al Shem Tov*, all of blessed memory. Rebbe Nachman said that he is the successor to these three great leaders and that, furthermore, his teachings will continue to expand and to influence the world until the Coming of the Messiah. He said that the publication of his work, Likutay Moharan, was the begining of the Final Redemption. [Chayay Moharan #279, #339-391]
In the year 5682 (1922), in a small town in Israel, Rabbi Yisroel Odesser received a letter miraculously written to him and signed by Rebbe Nachman. He carefully guarded this document until a time when he believed that the world would accept it. Rabbi Yisroel dedicated and sacrificed his entire life to help the Jewish People recognize the importance of Rebbe Nachman's teachings: namely, that only by following Rebbe Nachman's advice can we cleanse ourselves of our iniquities completely and start anew:
"Rabbeinu [Our Teacher], of blessed memory, already promised in his lifetime, in front of two valid witnesses, that, after his death, whoever would come to his gravesite and would give a pruta to charity in his name and would recite the Ten Chapters of Psalms* that we have recorded as a remedy for forbidden seminal emissions, G-d protect us, then Rabbeinu would span the length and breadth of the universe and certainly would save that person. And he said that he would pull that person out of Hell so long as he would accept upon himself from now on not to return to his folly...
"Even those who didn't merit to know Rabbeinu, of blessed memory, in his lifetime, when they come to his holy gravesite and rely upon him and learn his holy books and conduct themselves according to his holy ways that are stated in his holy books, certainly they have much to rely on. Happy are they and happy is their portion. Those who take refuge in Rabbeinu will not be ashamed. For he already revealed his thoughts many times, both explicitly and implicitly, that everything he did for us [his followers] is not for us alone but, rather, is for both "those who are here and those who are not here" [Deuteronomy* 29:14], as is explained elsewhere [Sichos HaRan* #209]". [Chayay Moharan #225]
Rabbi Yisroel believes that the time has come to proclaim to the world the crucial importance of Rebbe Nachman's teachings. Although its true depth has not yet been revealed, Rabbi Yisroel wished to publicize the miraculous letter from Rebbe Nachman in order to sanctify the Almighty's Name and the name of the True Tzaddik in the world and thereby bring nearer the Final Redemption, speedily in our days, Amen.
Rabbi Yisroel underwent intense physical hardship and almost unbearable persecution during the course of his life. His Yeshiva paid him only a fraction of the normal stipend because of his desire to learn Breslov books, which were totally shunned by the religious world at that time. He was so poor that he literally couldn't provide bread for his children. But through the sheer power of Rebbe Nachman's teachings, Rabbi Yisroel remained steadfast and strong, overcoming one obstacle after another. This was in the merit of his belief that only by following Rebbe Nachman's teachings can the Jewish Nation survive and inaugurate the Messianic Era.
Rabbi Yisroel was introduced to Breslov Chassidus by Rabbi Yisroel Halperin, of blessed memory, known as the Karduner. In Rabbi Karduner, Rabbi Yisroel witnessed service of G-d, holiness, and self-sacrifice the likes of which he had not seen even amongst the greatest Sages of his time. Rabbi Karduner's face always shone with joy and happiness and his voice resonated with a purity and sweetness completely unique in his generation.
Rabbi Yisroel merited to serve and learn from Rabbi Karduner for five years, during which time they overcame many trials and tribulations. It therefore is not surprising that Rabbi Yisroel merited to receive the miraculous letter from Rebbe Nachman over one hundred years after the Tzaddik's death.
Rabbi Yisroel remained strong and determined even after the overwhelming loss of his teacher, in 1918. Following Rabbi Karduner's death, Rabbi Yisroel found himself alone once again. He began to travel by foot to Jerusalem to hear Torah from the renowned Breslov Elders of his time, among whom were Rabbi Shlomo Wexler, of blessed memory, who came to Israel from Germany and was drawn to the teachings of Rebbe Nachman, and Rabbi Naftali Cohen, of blessed memory, who merited to publish several of Rebbe Nachman's books.
Rabbi Yisroel's piety is illustrated in the following story. When the great Sephardi* Sage, Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Alfandri, of blessed memory, was in Tiberias, Rabbi Yisroel greatly desired to be his attendant, and he served him with great love and dedication. One time Rabbi Alfandri heard Rabbi Yisroel praying and was extremely moved by the intensity and sweetness of his prayer. When he discovered that Rabbi Yisroel was a Breslover Chassid, he wouldn't let Rabbi Yisroel serve him. And from then on they were like friends.
Rabbi Yisroel's dedication to the Jewish People was instrumental in bringing many people, both young and old, back to Judaism, including the former President of Israel, Zalman Shazar. Until the very end, Rabbi Yisroel would give his last ounce of strength to bring a person closer to G-d and to the holy teachings of Rebbe Nachman.
Rabbi Yisroel's lifetime effort continues today in printing and disseminating Rebbe Nachman's teachings, both written and oral, that he received from his teachers. May it be the Almighty's Will that Rabbi Yisroel's lifelong dedication to the Jewish People will merit us to see the coming of the Messiah*, speedily in our days, Amen.
In the year 5682 (1922), on the Seventeenth of Tammuz*, I felt terrible weakness [relates Rabbi Yisroel Odesser]. The evil urge overcame me in the morning and said, "Behold, you are very weak! You need to eat! " And I had not drinken or eaten from midnight until that morning. But I ate, cautiously, as though eating damaging substances, but without hands and without feet [i.e., without any enthusiasm]. After eating I recited the Grace after Meals and walked to the Mikveh*. You can imagine how my prayers went and how I felt after such a thing. For when I was with Rabbi Yisroel Karduner, he had been careful about every fast in the Shulchan Aruch*, especially the Seventeeth of Tammuz, the most serious of the four major fast days. Already as a child, from the age of six, I had been accustomed to fasting every Monday and Thursday; yet now, today, I stumbled and ate before praying. I didn't want to live, and I fell into such dejection that I couldn't speak or be seen with people.
I walked to the Yeshiva* and lay down in the synagogue in the Yeshiva, like a dead man. I didn't speak and didn't eat for the next six days. Whoever entered the synagogue, including the Yeshiva students, and saw Reb Yisroel Ber lying in such dejection, was afraid. For they were used to my always being happy and dancing and were amazed at how Yisroel Ber could be happy. "Why is he happy? He has no livelihood or bread for his children." They said that this Yisroel Ber was not the Yisroel Ber they knew. "This Reb Yisroel Ber had gone out of his mind, and such is the fate of all the Breslovers, that in the end they go out of their minds. For they walk at midnight to the fields and forests, and sometimes they are frightened by a dog or wild animal or a Gentile, and therefore in the end they go crazy". I felt terribly dejected, and what they were saying now caused me even greater dejection. For I felt that I was the cause of everything they were saying.
In any event, I felt great pain and distress and didn't want to live. I saw that my great sadness was causing a desecration of G-d's Name and a disgrace to Breslov Chassidus. Then I did hisbodedus and prayed to the Blessed G-d: "Master of the Universe. Look at my situation. It's true that I ate and did what I did. But I want to return to You. Heal me and remove me from this situation, this sadness, for I am causing a desecration of Your Name and blemishing Breslov Chassidus". Then I cried before the Blessed G-d and said in the synagogue: "Master of the Universe. Heal me so that I can escape from this sadness."
A powerful thought came to me, as though someone had entered my head and my mind. The thought said to me: "Go into your room!" (I was in the synagogue and my room was next to the synagogue.) "Go into your room, and open the bookcase, and put your hand on any book, and remove it and open it, and there you will find a cure for your soul." I wanted a cure, and I had prayed. So I said in my heart, "This thought of mine, is it a serious thing?" Then I said, "I'll try and see what happens." So I did this: I went from the synagogue into my room, and opened the bookcase, as the thought had said to me, and put my hand on a certain book, and removed it and opened it. And there was this letter.
At first I saw just a piece of paper and I didn't know what it was doing in the book. Possibly it was a bookmark to indicate where I was learning. I didn't pay attention to this piece of paper. In any event, afterwards I noticed that there were lines of writing on it. I started to read and I saw what was written: "My precious student... I benefited greatly from your service." This sadness, this broken heart that I had because of my sin of not fasting on the Seventeenth of Tammuz--"I benefited greatly from your service." "And the sign", at the end of the whole letter: "On the Seventeenth of Tammuz they will say that you are not fasting." "On the Seventeenth of Tammuz they will say." This implied that the letter was written before the Seventeenth of Tammuz. It was telling me a sign: "On the Seventeenth of Tammuz they will say that you are not fasting."
In any event I read this, and just as before I had been so sad, now I received so much joy from this letter, joy not of this world, that the sadness had no value compared to the joy. Amidst such joy I started to dance in my room in the Yeshiva. The Yeshiva students said: "The crazy man is happy now. He's dancing." They all came into my room and watched me dancing. But I paid no attention to them. I danced and rejoiced until they gave in and took me outside. They stood in a circle with me in the middle. I danced for many hours that night, until they became tired. They stood for a long time and said: "He won't tire out. He will tire us out. We have no more strength." They left and I danced alone the whole night. Anyway it is impossible to describe and to relate adequately what had happened to me: Such sadness, such healing, such joy that I experienced...
TALMIDI HAYAKAR LEHAGID LECHA KI NEHENETI
ME'OD ME'AVODASECHA VE'ALEYCHA AMARTI
MEIN FOYERIL VET T'LUYEN BIZ
MOSHIACH VET KOMEN CHAZAK VE'AMATZ
NA NACH NACHMA NACHMAN ME'UMAN
U'BE'ZE AGALE LECHA SOD VEHU:
MALE VE'GADISH MIKAV LEKAV (PAY-TZADDI-PAY-TZADDI-YUD-KAY)
U'BECHIZUK AVODA TE'VINAYHU VE'SIMAN
YUD ZAYIN BE'TAMMUZ YOM'RU SHE'AYNCHA MIT'ANEH
MY PRECIOUS STUDENT TO TELL YOU THAT I BENEFITED
GREATLY FROM YOUR SERVICE AND UPON YOU I SAID
MY FIRE WILL BURN UNTIL
MESSIAH WILL COME BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS
IN YOUR SERVICE
NA NACH NACHMA NACHMAN ME'UMAN
AND WITH THIS I SHALL REVEAL TO YOU A SECRET AND IT IS:
FULL AND HEAPED UP FROM LINE TO LINE
AND WITH STRONG SERVICE YOU WILL UNDERSTAND IT
AND THE SIGN IS
THE 17TH OF TAMMUZ THEY WILL SAY THAT YOU ARE NOT FASTING
It is written in Likutay Moharan II:8, based on the Tikkunay Zohar*, that, in the end of days, a new song will burst forth in the universe. This song of Divine Providence, called the single, double, triple, quadruple song, will lead to the renewal of the entire world. The letter received by Rabbi Yisroel Odesser reveals that Rebbe Nachman himself (meaning his name and his teachings) is the song that will burst forth in the end of days, renewing the world. It is good to sing and to say in all situations this new song:
NA NACH NACHMA NACHMAN ME'UMAN
I have longed all my life to relate the story of how I drew close to my teacher, the holy and pious Rabbi Yisroel Karduner, through whom I merited to know of our Master, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, may his merit protect us. In the merit of my teacher's awesome devotion and faith, may it be the will of the Almighty to make known the teachings of Rebbe Nachman, transforming to light and goodness a world currently immersed in darkness, thus fulfilling the words of the Prophet Isaiah, "The world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, like waters covering the ocean." [Isaiah* 11:9]
From my earliest days, G-d blessed me with a soul that longed to come close to Him. My ancestors for generations were Karliner* Chassidim, and I myself, being a G-d-fearing person, was very connected to Karlin. However, since I had great struggles in serving G-d, like all beginners who are starting out, especially those who are more particular in their service of G-d and who endure wars and obstacles and ups and downs; therefore I required techniques, advice, and encouragement in order to succeed in the war against the evil inclination. And I searched for a cure for my soul to the point where I would disgrace myself in front of the leaders of Chassidus, the Elders of the Generation, and the Masters of Kaballah*. I would always crouch amongst them and would complain to them about my spiritual afflictions. For I feared the L-rd and I was in a situation of suffering both from the demands of the evil inclination to sin and the demands of my Creator to battle and overcome the evil part of my nature. And therefore I had no sense of spiritual contentment. I would explain to these leaders all my spiritual problems and afflictions but they had no cure for me. Occasionally I would receive some arousal to G-d, but a complete cure I did not find. And from this experience I saw with my own eyes that the Blessed L-rd does not withhold reward from any of His creatures. For I had sacrificed myself greatly in revealing all the afflictions of my heart to these great leaders, and in reward for my embarassment and struggle to find a spiritual cure I merited to draw near to our Teacher [Rebbe Nachman of Breslov], "The flowing stream, the source of wisdom." [Proverbs*18:4]
The first event that introduced me to the teachings of Rebbe Nachman occurred when I found a book without a cover in the Yeshiva garbage. Since it is forbidden to disgrace a holy book in this fashion, I removed it in order to bury it in an honorable way. I picked up the book and looked at it, for I had always loved all Torah books and constantly was looking through them to comfort my soul. As I read through it, I noticed the title, Hishtopchus HaNefesh [Outpouring of the Soul]. As its name testified, so it was. I wondered if the Almighty had arranged this incident for my personal salvation? Instead of burying the book, I kept it and began reading it day and night. It became precious to me, and, in truth, it started to heal me.
After my Bar Mitzvah* I was learning at the Yeshiva of Rabbi Meir Ba'al HaNess*, which is located in the mountains at the edge of Tiberias. I read in Hishtopchus HaNafesh that, through prayer and conversation with G-d, one can attain all that one needs in life, both spiritually and materially. The book shows that the main way to come close to the Blessed G-d is specifically through personal prayer and meditation.
[This technique is called hisbodedus*, (lit. "isolation" ) which means to speak personally to G-d in one's native tongue. Rebbe Nachman says that one who engages with sincerity in this practice, for at least one hour every day, will merit to speak words that literally have holy and prophetic spirit.]
"Hisbodedus is a great virtue and a true and valid way to come close to G-d. Every person should set aside for himself a certain hour during the day for this practice. During this time he should speak out his inner feelings to G-d in the language he normally uses for conversation. The reason for this is that it is easier to express oneself clearly in the language in which one normally speaks. A person should tell G-d everything in his heart. This includes regrets about and commitment to change past behavior or attitudes and requests and supplications to G-d to merit to come close to Him. One who cannot find words to express himself to G-d should cry out and supplicate about his having become so estranged from G-d that he cannot find anything to say. He should plead for G-d's mercy and grace, that He should look favorably upon him and open up his mouth to speak his heart to G-d. Every person, according to the inward pain of his soul, which is so far removed from G-d, should express this pain.
"The awesome value of this practice cannot be adequately described or measured. This method is greater than everything else and includes within it every commandment and act in the Torah. Through it a person can come to everything good both in this world and in the World to Come. Everything a person needs can be attained through prayer and supplication. All of the great Jewish Tzaddikim achieved their spiritual excellence solely through this practice. An intelligent person will understand for himself the greatness of this. Happy is the one who sets aside one hour each and every day [for serious introspection and hisbodedus] and the rest of the day he will spend in joy and happiness". [Hishtopchus HaNefesh]
Since my Yeshiva was in the hills, I had an excellent opportunity to try out the book's teachings. I would go out periodically to a secluded spot and try to implement the book's lessons. At the time I didn't know who the author was, nor did I have any knowledge of Breslov Chassidus, even though I was familiar with different Chassidic groups. However, I was longing intensely for a spiritual cure, and when I thought about it honestly, I saw that this book was healing me. Its power of simplicity and truth had more impact on me than miracles and wonders. Its principal idea, that in all situations, good or bad, a person can assert his free will to serve G-d, I saw as the greatest miracle of all.
I developed a great love toward this book, and it remained my constant companion. I would read it through cover to cover and then start it all over again. The teachings instilled in me a new light and protected me from all pitfalls in life. I felt myself undergoing a change as great as the distance from Heaven to earth. And even though I still didn't know the book's author, its effect on me was awesome.
One day a certain Chassid came into my room. When he saw this book in my hand he said, "Are you actually looking at a book like that? Isn't that a Breslov book?" (This was the first time that I'd heard the name Breslov.) So I told him, "If you don't like it, don't look at it; but I will continue to read it." However, he forced the book out of my hand and left with it.
Since I already knew the book by heart, I continued with its teachings unhampered. Once I heard the name Breslov, I pleaded with the Blessed L-rd to draw me near to Him by sending me someone to teach and guide me in Breslov Chassidus. I deduced, from the strong opposition that I'd witnessed, a sign of the greatness of the book's teachings. My prayers were heard, for shortly after this incident I came to meet Rabbi Yisroel Karduner, of blessed memory, who introduced me to the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
Rabbi Yisroel Karduner was a truly remarkable figure. Had he been alive even in the time of Rebbe Nachman himself he still would have been unique. Ordinary words are not adequate to describe what I observed from him. He lived with such an attachment to G-d that anyone who saw him immediately sensed his holiness. To this day I have not heard or seen such devotion in fulfilling G-d's commandments. When he would stand to pray it was as though he was not in this world at all. All his actions, both towards his Creator and towards his fellow man, were to sanctify G-d's Name, and his face shone constantly with the light of holiness.
Rabbi Yisroel* [asterisk indicates Rabbi Yisroel Karduner] served G-d with awesome and wondrous fervor and vitality. Everyone who ever met him, or even heard his voice, including those most opposed to Breslov, felt so overwhelmed in his presence that their objections completely faded and they came to respect him and view him with awe. Even his family didn't distract him from the service of G-d. They lived in Tzefat*, while he himself spent most of the week in Meron*, returning home only for Shabbos. (Meron, unpopulated at the time, was like the Garden of Eden.) There in Meron he would stand near the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), immersed in prayer and introspection, following the advice of Rebbe Nachman. Having asked the Almighty to introduce me to Breslov Chassidus, I never could have dreamed that such a man, constantly immersed in prayer, would soon travel to my own home in Tiberias!
During this same period, Rabbi Yisroel Karduner began to suffer from terrible pains. With the increasing agony he could no longer perform his devotions. He felt as if his every limb was being cut by knives. Rabbi Karduner thought that this might be a sign to travel to Tiberias to soak in the hot springs. However, without being absolutely sure that this was the Almighty's will, he didn't want to leave Meron and the holy tomb of the Rashbi. He thought that perhaps this was a test from the Blessed L-rd that he could overcome through prayer. For a long time he struggled with his doubts. Finally, when the pain became unbearable, he concluded that this indeed must be G-d's will. He prepared to travel to Tiberias, rising early to depart without doubts or further delay, like the Patriarch Abraham*, who set out promptly when G-d asked him to bring his son Isaac as a sacrifice. The Almighty then arranged events so that Rabbi Yisroel* would enter my life.
It happened like this. My parents were desperately poor, coffee grinders by trade. They earned barely enough to buy bread. During the First World War the coffee supply was cut off and we were left destitute, with no income at all. One of my cousins, Chayim Binyamin Barzel, lived with us. He was the son of my mother's brother and an orphan from youth. My mother treated him like her own son. When she told him that we now were left without a livelihood, he suggested that she bake and sell bread. When my mother asked, incredulously, how she could afford to buy flour, my cousin convinced the miller to advance her some on credit.
My mother began to bake on a Sunday, and a few days later, on Thursday night, Rabbi Yisroel*, who had just arrived in Tiberias from Meron, met Binyamin. They greeted each other, and when Rabbi Yisroel* asked where he could buy some bread, Binyamin, thrilled that he'd found a buyer, immediately sent him to my mother's house. It was the end of the business day, and our home was filled with young children, who ate a lot of bread, so I considered it a miracle that we still had one loaf remaining when Rabbi Yisroel came to our house.
From his appearance I had the distinct feeling that he was one of the Thirty-Six Hidden Tzaddikim*, as many great Jewish leaders had said of him in his own lifetime. I already knew that through him I could find the approach I was searching for in fulfilling G-d's commandments. I wondered, however, how I could start a conversation with someone who was so great that he surely could transcend time and space at will. And furthermore, even if I could start a conversation, how could I pour out my heart to someone so holy and dignified?
As I was thinking these thoughts, Rabbi Yisroel* paid me for the bread and asked whether he could wash his hands* and eat in our house. I felt drawn to him like a magnet, and I sensed that he was aware of my thoughts. It was already nighttime, and our house was filled with mattresses for the children to sleep on; there wasn't even room to sit down. I was sure that my father would never agree to have a guest in such circumstances. However, I asked my father anyway, and he not only agreed, but he also offered our guest the last remaining morsel of food that we had. I was even more astounded that my father had agreed, because we had to rise early the next morning to bake bread.
Rabbi Yisroel* sat down and washed his hands. I offered him the last remaining onion to eat with his bread, but he refused, saying, "My custom is to eat only bread and tea." I prepared him some tea, and then, thinking everyone was still awake, I whispered to him, "Do you know that the Almighty sent you to rescue my soul?" Rabbi Yisroel* was very moved by my question, since it finally was becoming clear to him exactly why he had been forced to leave Meron. At that moment a special bond started to form between us.
When Rabbi Yisroel* washed his hands he said the blessing quietly, with the sweetness of one thanking a friend for a favor. I was very moved by this, and Rabbi Yisroel* sensed my feelings. He now saw very clearly how Divine Providence had directed him to my house immediately upon his arrival in Tiberias, and from that moment on he gave himself over to me with all his heart and soul. And even though he loved every Jew, the bond that formed between us was extremely unique. It is impossible to imagine the love and closeness that existed between us.
After Rabbi Yisroel* finished reciting Bircas HaMazon*, I asked him where he would sleep. He said that he would spend the night in a nearby synagogue. I escorted him out of the house, and as soon as we were outside I broke into tears. (I wanted to evoke this great man's compassion towards me and make sure that I wouldn't lose this precious relationship and be left alone again.) I told him everything that had happened to me, my discovery of the book, Hishtopchus HaNefesh, and how I'd beseeched the Almighty to introduce me to Breslov Chassidus. In Rabbi Yisroel*, I saw a Divine messenger to answer my prayers, so I said to him, "Now that the Almighty has arranged these wondrous events so we could meet, I am begging you to have mercy on me and to teach me things that will heal my soul!"
When he heard these words he was very moved. As I continued to tell him about all the pains of my soul, he listened attentively. Finally he began to speak; every word that flowed from his mouth was a healing and renewal of my very life-force, the nature of which I had never experienced since the day I came into the world. He spoke of our Master, Rebbe Nachman, of his teachings and his great light that were made to heal my broken heart.
We walked until we reached the Karliner synagogue, which was locked, as was another shul. Nearby was a third synagogue, formerly used by the great sages and disciples of the Ba'al Shem Tov, such as Rabbis Avraham Kalisker and Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk. The shul stood at the edge of the Sea of Galilee, and in the winter, during the rainy season, water would actually overflow into it. The tables inside were half-immersed in water.
All the books had been removed, leaving the shul abandoned and open.
We entered the shul together and sat down on a table. Rabbi Yisroel* put down his books, Tallis* and Tefillin*, and took out from his pocket a candle and matches. (They always were with him wherever he went, even though they were very expensive at the time.) Then Rabbi Yisroel opened up the book, Rebbe Nachman's Likutay Moharan, and began teaching me the lesson entitled, "The one who has mercy will lead them" [II:7]. We were so absorbed in the lesson that we didn't notice the dampness and water in the shul.
We sat and learned together until early morning, when, suddenly, I heard my mother cry, "Where is my son?" I realized then the great trouble that I'd caused by my absence. The dough that my mother was to have baked that day had spoiled since I wasn't there to help her knead it. The entire household was upset and yelled at me, demanding to know why I'd left the house at that time. I hadn't intended to cause trouble, but simply had become so absorbed in our learning that I completely lost track of time. I now was certain that Rabbi Yisroel* was one of the Thirty-Six Hidden Tzaddikim, for the Torah he had taught me was truly awesome. Rabbi Yisroel* remained in the shul until morning, when he went to pray with a minyan*. Afterwards I found him in the Karliner synagogue.
Tiberias was a small town in those days, and when people heard my mother's cry the whole town became alarmed. They thought that I had died, G-d forbid. They began to inquire, and my mother told them of a certain Jew who had come into town at night to buy bread. I went off with him but didn't return, and in the morning my mother had found me with this Jew in the flooded shul. My mother didn't know that Rabbi Yisroel* was a Breslover Chassid but the townspeople did, and when I came home the next morning everyone said, "Last night Yisroel Ber was forcibly converted to Breslov Chassidus." This was when I first knew with certainty that Rabbi Yisroel* was a Breslover Chassid.
From then on Rabbi Yisroel* and I were never apart. I had witnessed the fulfillment of my prayers and hisbodedus, testifying to the greatness of Rebbe Nachman's teachings, in G-d's sending my teacher right into my house. I saw as miraculous that Rabbi Yisroel*, having been forced by Divine Providence to leave Meron in order to help me, was so strongly drawn to me. Such a bond formed between us that "much water could not extinguish the love between us." [Song of Songs* 8:7] I knew that even if the whole world tried to separate us they would not succeed.
However, the world remained very opposed to Breslov. People began to express their opposition to me with words of bitter contempt. "It is true that Rabbi Yisroel* is a great man," they would tell me, "but he is a Breslover and that is his shortcoming." (They didn't realize that all his greatness was due to Breslov, through which he merited to attain all of his righteousness, holiness, and love of G-d.) When they saw that their words had no effect on me, they went to my father, who was already blind at the time, and said, "Your son has become a Breslover Chassid, one who wanders in the mountains speaking to G-d. All the Rabbis are against this way; it could cause your son to lose his mind. Now there still is time to save him. But later on he will be in the category of `all those that enter will never return'." [Proverbs 2:19] They asked my father to persuade me to leave Breslov Chassidus.
When my parents heard these menacing words from the other Chassidim, they were very frightened. My father still thought, however, that I would listen to him and leave Breslov, since until now there had always existed tremendous love and closeness between us. One day he sat down with me and said, "I am a Karliner Chassid. You may choose for yourself any Chassidus you want with the exception of Breslov." However, I had already seen the Almighty's Hand in arranging events for me to meet a giant like Rabbi Yisroel*; the light I saw and the healing I received cannot be imagined. So I replied to my father, "I cannot reveal to you everything in my heart, but you should know that in this matter you cannot influence me at all." My response completely bewildered him. In my entire life I never had rebelled against even his smallest request. I always had shown him great respect, especially after he became blind, but in this matter I told him that I could not obey him.
My determined reaction convinced my father that his fears were justified, and he became even more adamantly opposed to me. He worried that his power to influence me no longer existed, so he decided to wage war with me over this matter and he relinquished responsibility for my upcoming wedding. (I was already engaged at the time.) But my mother opposed him, saying that I was still their son and that they should suffer through the situation until I got married. She worried that news of this dispute would reach my bride's family, who lived in Tzefat. Tiberias and Tzefat were so close together that they were bound to find out.
Eventually, however, a big argument broke out in our family, and finally, on Shabbos, my father expelled me from the house. I went to the shul next to the house of Rabbi Yisroel*. My father, who was blind, stayed at home, while my mother went out to consult with different Torah authorities. First she went to Rabbi Mordechai of Slonim, who had loved me like a son all his life and had taught me Mishnah* and Zohar*. When my mother asked him what to do, he replied, "Your husband is correct. You must do everything in your power to get your son away from Breslov." He added that Breslov Chassidus is extremely powerful and, once influenced by it, a person is unable to escape from its doctrines. When my mother heard these words, she became terrified. Rabbi Mordechai advised her to approach Rabbi Yisroel* directly to tell him how she and her husband were broken and crushed from the situation and to ask him to send me away.
When my mother entered Rabbi Yisroel's* house, she was so upset that she prostrated herself in front of him and pleaded with him with outstretched hands. She was crying bitterly, as if over the death of a son. She told him everything in her heart, saying, "You are a good Jew. Have mercy on my husband and me. For us this is a matter of life and death. Send my son away and don't let him learn with you." Rabbi Yisroel* listened to her with great patience. Yet he knew that such a bond existed between us that even all the kings of the world could not separate us. Finally he replied, "I cannot ask any Jew to leave my house. But if you want to listen to some good advice from a friend, leave your son alone and don't interfere with him."
When my mother heard this, she feared that the prediction of Rabbi Mordechai had already come true. In her great sorrow, her soul left her. I was sitting in the shul next door when, suddenly, I heard people shouting, "Rivka [my mother] has died!" They tried to revive her with various remedies, and I heard them saying, "You see what her son has done to her!" I was broken and crushed and started to wonder if, really, I had erred in causing my parents so much sorrow. Certainly, I thought, I could have left the matter alone and become a Breslover Chassid later.
You can imagine my relief when, after two hours of virtual lifelessness, signs of life began to reappear in her. A terrible desecration of the Almighty's Name was avoided, for people would have blamed my involvement with Breslov for my mother's death. Her resuscitation in the home of Rabbi Yisroel* was, I felt, literally a case of revival of the dead, which no one could explain in a rational way. Since she had been unconscious for so long, after her revival she continued to suffer for a long time with unimaginable pain. For my part, when I saw that I still had a mother, I was so relieved that I even thought about acceding to my parents' demands that I leave Breslov, fearing the recurrence of such a tragedy.
The Almighty had arranged yet another kindness for me in that I was already engaged before I became involved in Breslov. Had this not been the case I would have had no chance of finding a mate on account of the tremendous opposition that existed to Breslov. When the townspeople visited my prospective father-in-law and spoke to him of my attachment to Breslov, he replied, "Don't worry. After his marriage his wife certainly will prevent him from continuing with this."
I had become involved with Breslov in the winter; the date for my wedding had been set for the following Hebrew month of Elul [late summer]. In the meantime there was a famine, and my father-in-law to be, who was an upright and G-d-fearing man, wrote us that he could not maintain his wedding commitments, as he now had no money for clothing or a dowry. Rabbi Yisroel*, however, was determined that I should marry, making me a complete person and better able to integrate the teachings of Rebbe Nachman. He thought deeply on the matter and finally decided to travel from place to place to collect money on my behalf. He gave this money to my parents for them to clothe me and to marry me off on schedule. When Rabbi Yisroel* went to Tzefat, I sent a letter to my future father-in-law, authorized by my parents, stating that they wanted the wedding to take place as scheduled and that I was relinquishing my claim to a dowry.
In order to ensure that my wedding would proceed as planned, Rabbi Yisroel* remained in Tiberias. He clearly saw G-d's Hand in our relationship, and he felt a personal responsibility to stay with me and to help me in every possible way. I also didn't want to separate from him. When Elul came and it was time to travel to Tzefat for my wedding, I worried that I would have no further opportunity to be together with Rabbi Yisroel*. Having seen all the obstacles between us and worried that our relationship was about to end, I asked Rabbi Yisroel to make a formal agreement with me, like the pact between Ruth and Naomi*, that we would meet regularly every day, learning together and serving the Almighty as one. The agreement was made and kept secret. We made the pact near the Tomb of Rabbi Akiva*, where we had been praying with tears and great fervor at the time. The pact we made was so binding that on the very day my family travelled to Tzefat for my wedding, when my mother was sure that my relationship with Rabbi Yisroel* was ending, in the middle of the journey we saw Rabbi Yisroel* also on his way to Tzefat.
A confrontation began, after my wedding, between Rabbi Yisroel* and myself on the one hand and my father-in-law and the elders of the town on the other. I was in such a degraded state that when I would leave the city children would throw stones and peels at me and call names to the point where I almost lost my mind. When my father-in-law saw this he began to pressure my wife, Esther, to ask me for a divorce. She refused, saying, "This is my portion in life and so it will be." I recognized in her loyalty the great kindness the Blessed L-rd had bestowed on me.
Once the question of divorce had been put aside, we needed a place where we could live undisturbed. Near Rabbi Yisroel's* house was a small room that Rabbi Yisroel* rented for us. He acted as a father and mother to both of us, worrying about all our needs. Even if he was eating only crumbs, for us he wanted only the best. Those years of our pact were years of true life, not of this world at all.
My relationship with Rabbi Yisroel* lasted until, eventually, Rabbi Yisroel* told me that his time to depart from this world was drawing near. He foresaw that in the future a great darkness of disbelief would descend upon the world, a darkness impossible to describe, and he spoke of the pain and suffering he felt because of it. We were, at the time, so immersed in our service of the Almighty that I couldn't conceive of our relationship ending. However, I saw that Rabbi Yisroel* was correct, and every time he felt unwell I worried that his end had come and that he would leave the world.
During the five years of our pact, Rabbi Yisroel* and I endured many hardships, including war and a famine, which made it very hard to learn together. However, simply being with him was the greatest learning of all. His faith, trust in G-d, and exemplary character were examples to be emulated that have sustained me all my life. From him my soul has derived life and strength to continue to probe deeper into the ways and teachings of Rebbe Nachman.
When the British entered Tiberias at the end of World War One, a plague broke out (G-d spare us), during which most of Rabbi Yisroel's* children died. He was left with only one son, twelve years old. But Rabbi Yisroel* accepted the decree with fortitude and certainty. In the end, this son also died. Rabbi Yisroel* himself became very ill and weak. He said that, with his death, he would take the plague with him and thus stop its expansion. An so it was that after he died the plague stopped. For my part, I felt as though I had been abandoned in the wilderness. After a while I traveled to Jerusalem, to hear the Breslov teachings from the Elders there, who were very precious men.
Rabbi Yisroel* would be in a state of holiness and sanctity the entire week, and on Shabbos he was exceptionally holy. He actually could see and experience the light of Shabbos. His singing and dancing were phenomenal. We would dance together most of the night of Shabbos. This really amazed the people of the town, since no other Chassidus demonstrated such happiness and joy.
I also witnessed in Rabbi Yisroel* faith and trust in G-d that is impossible to imagine or describe. Once I saw him at the Tomb of the Rashbi in Meron, on a winter's day. He stood there the entire day reciting Psalms. His words were like coals of fire, resounding with awe, devotion, and sweetness, the likes of which I've never heard before or since. Even though tears normally dry up, Rabbi Yisroel's* crying continued until the Tomb literally was soaked. I saw this with my own eyes.
On another occasion we were walking to a certain moshav*. On the way there was a terrible storm. All around us was flooding and mud, and we had to devote all our energy to saving ourselves. Hours passed before we saw any light. Finally, we noticed a lit house and were invited inside. When the owner saw our drenched condition, he gave us clothing to change into and tea to drink. Rabbi Yisroel* stood to pray the evening prayer. I was sure that this night, after everything that had happened to us, he wouldn't be able to rise for the Midnight Lament. I was so exhausted that I couldn't even move my limbs. The family arranged beds for us and we went to sleep.
Before I knew it, Rabbi Yisroel* arose from his bed like a lion. I've never heard a Midnight Prayer like this, all the days of my life. Afterwards he went to his table and lit a candle. I was turning restlessly on my bed, unable to relax. Finally I also got up and approached the door quietly. I saw Rabbi Yisroel's* table shaking and trembling like a great machine. I felt tremendously ashamed and was afraid to approach him, but I wanted to fulfill our agreement to meet every night. Finally I gathered courage and walked towards him, and I saw his face glowing. When I saw this I felt ashamed.
In the morning, Rabbi Yisroel* prayed at sunrise as usual. The prayer was so sweet sounding that all of the people of the town stopped at the window to listen on their way to work. I was with Rabbi Yisroel* when he said the Shema* with such concentration that I thought his soul would leave him. His yearning to be close to G-d was so intense that he cried like a baby during his prayers. Afterwards, the owner of the house stood in front of Rabbi Yisroel* as if in the presence of a king. He prepared a banquet for him. The lady of the house, sensing his holiness, went to cover herself in modest attire. Rabbi Yisroel* declined the banquet and asked the owner to forgive him, since it was his custom only to eat bread and tea.
In his youth Rabbi Yisroel* was loved by everyone in his town in Poland. His father was a prominent businessman, and Rabbi Yisroel* managed all his merchandise. He told me that his heart was always burning and yearning for the fear of Heaven. He would hide behind the barrels in the storeroom, where he would do hisbodedus and meditate and scream out silently from the depths of his heart to merit to be a truly righteous Jew. He started doing all of this even before he became attached to our Teacher, Rebbe Nachman. Due to his great piety, the local people were all interested in him as a match for their daughters.
Once he was looking through some disposed manuscripts and he came upon something from Rebbe Nachman, but, at the time, he didn't know who the author was. So great was its effect on him that Rabbi Yisroel soon became known as a Breslover Chassid. His father tried to stop his involvement with Breslov, but to no avail. Finally he vowed to take away his inheritance, so Rabbi Yisroel* left his hometown for Uman, in Russia, where he stayed for many years and got married. His father later retracted his opposition.
Rabbi Yisroel* had many names. His family name was Halperin, but they called him Karduner after the name of his town of birth. In Jerusalem, Tzefat, and Tiberias they called him Rabbi Yisroel Breslover, and on his tombstone in Tiberias is written, "Here is buried Rabbi Yisroel Breslover, the son of Rabbi Yehuda Leib."
There is another important story to tell concerning a certain proselyte who was attracted to Breslov. He lived in Tiberias and came from Russia. A very pious man, he would recite the entire prayerbook from cover to cover. His face glowed with the fear of Heaven and resembled that of a lion. In addition he was an enormous man, who would eat an entire loaf of bread per meal. Since there was a famine in those days, no one could afford to show him hospitality and he was forced to spend most of his time in the wayfarers' house. Rabbi Yisroel's* kindness towards his fellow man was so great that he arranged a place for this man in his own house. Since the man had no change of clothes, he had terrible body odor. His shirt had become encrusted with sweat and thick as leather. No one could stand being near him.
When Passover*drew near, Rabbi Yisroel* ordered new clothing for him. The man washed, put on his new clothing, and was Rabbi Yisroel's personal guest for the entire Passover. During the Passover Seder*, I quickly finished the Haggadah* and went to see Rabbi Yisroel*. I found a crowd of people there, and inside the house there was tremendous light, dancing, and joy. The convert was overwhelmed with happiness in becoming Jewish and in meeting Rabbi Yisroel*. He saw so much sweetness and love of the commandments that he began to dance from sheer joy. He was so big that the entire house was shaking. As I approached the door I was embarrassed to enter, for I saw that the Divine Presence was upon the house. Afterwards I went in and joined in the dancing, which carried on until the morning.
After Rabbi Yisroel* passed away, I would awaken at midnight and go to the mikveh. Once I fell asleep with my book and dreamed that I was in the ocean with the waves raging around me. I had already given up, sure that I would drown. Suddenly I saw a lighthouse in the middle of the sea, and I felt some relief. Desperately wanting to enter the tower, I climbed up the steps using all of my strength and was overjoyed that I was saved from the water. I went into a hall where I saw several rooms. I passed by every room until the last one. There I opened the door and saw an old man whose white beard was as long as his body. He had a beauty and a grace not seen in this world. His face was young and pleasant. When I entered, the old man was sitting in a chair and another was walking around him in circles. The old man greeted me with such tremendous love that I awoke. I pondered the significance of the dream, but I couldn't find any interpretation. So I asked for mercy from the Almighty, and then I took a book from the table. The book was called Chayay Moharan. I opened it up and read that Rebbe Nachman sometimes appears to a person in the guise of an Elder.
I would now like to relate another important story. In Tiberias there was a certain talmid chocham*, very distinguished in Torah learning and fear of G-d. He was one of the students of the Chofetz Chaim*, of blessed memory, and every month he completed the entire book, Reishis Chochma*. This book is very long and difficult to understand, and he would lock himself in a room and roar like a lion from his effort to master it. Before I met Rabbi Yisroel*, I also was searching for a new approach to ease the pains in my soul, so we became friends. I would come and learn with him. His name was Tzvi Rosental.
When he saw the tremendous opposition and suffering I had to endure after I became involved with Breslov, he grew fascinated with Breslov. He also wanted to be introduced to the teachings and yearned to come close to a true Tzaddik like Rabbi Yisroel*. I would say to him, "Do you want to experience the true light of Chassidus? I'll show you a light that has no comparison anywhere." I greatly praised Rabbi Yisroel* and encouraged Reb Tzvi to meet him.
Reb Tzvi normally joined a group of Chassidim every Shabbos evening to listen to Chassidic stories. I would go openly to Rabbi Yisroel's* house; soon Reb Tzvi started to go there in secret. He told his family that he was going to the other Chassidim, but he really went to Rabbi Yisroel*. When he didn't show up for several weeks, the other Chassidim began to inquire after him. They followed him to see where he was going. When they finally realized what he was doing, they became worried that all the young people would follow him and get involved with Breslov. (Reb Tzvi was a very popular school-teacher.) So they used all of their power to pull Reb Tzvi away from Rabbi Yisroel*. They watched him carefully so he wouldn't be able to visit him.
But Reb Tzvi's heart was burning with the fire of holiness, so he decided to walk to Jerusalem to join the Breslov Chassidim there. He told me of his plans privately; no one else knew. Even though he was bitterly poor, he was very determined. He set out on foot to Jerusalem, since he had no money for the journey. When his family realized Reb Tzvi was missing, his father-in-law went straight to the authorities to issue complaints against him. He stated that Reb Tzvi had abandoned his wife and children and that Rabbi Yisroel* and I should be put in jail since we surely knew of Reb Tzvi's whereabouts. Rabbi Yisroel* was an Austrian citizen, which protected him from being arrested as long as he remained in his house. However I was a Turkish citizen, enabling them to arrest me anywhere, which they did.
Soon afterwards crowds of people gathered at Rabbi Yisroel's* house, where they picked up stones and broke windows, literally wrecking his house. Rabbi Yisroel* was inside praying with a voice that split the Heavens, as if nothing was happening at all. Everyone who heard him had thoughts of repentance. The authorities who accompanied the police planned to wait until he finished praying, call him outside, and arrest him. When the people in the nearby shul finished praying, they came out, saw the whole disturbance, and asked what was going on. A pharmacist and two householders were so moved by Rabbi Yisroel's* prayers that they told the authorities to leave him alone. They entered Rabbi Yisroel's* house to speak with him, and from that time on they became close friends.
I, however, remained in custody. An officer came in and tied me up, and the police stood by my side and asked where Reb Tzvi was. I told them that he had gone to Jerusalem. They went to search for him and found him near Afula. They told him that Rabbi Yisroel* and I were under arrest and that he must come home. They returned with him on Motza'ey Shabbos, and then they freed me from jail.
The next morning, there was a convention of the Chief Rabbinical Council, the head of which was Rabbi Moshe Kleerse. They drafted a document that forbade Reb Tzvi to come within six feet of me or Rabbi Yisroel*. Reb Tzvi was forced to sign this. Afterwards, he came to the Yeshiva, and said that he had something important to tell me. Speaking in a whisper, he told me what had happened. I was very upset that he hadn't shown more pride and determination in resisting their pressure. I went into town and told everything to Rabbi Yisroel*. When he heard the story, he sighed from the depths of his heart.
Before long people were saying that Reb Tzvi suddenly had become very weak with a lung ailment. The doctors said that his life was endangered. All the children of the town congregated at the tomb of the Rambam to pray for his recovery. Rabbi Yisroel* and I also were there, along with Reb Tzvi's wife. When I told Rabbi Yisroel* that Reb Tzvi was mortally ill, he told me to run to Reb Tzvi's house and insist that the document be torn up immediately. I ran to carry out his instructions, and in his house I found his entire family, including a very distinguished elder by the name of Rabbi Kahet, who was from the other Chassidim. When he heard Rabbi Yisroel's* instructions, he told Reb Tzvi's father-in-law, "Listen to him and tear up the document immediately!" But his father-in-law refused to listen.
That night I dreamed I was in the market and Reb Tzvi also was there. He spoke to me, and I said to him, "What are you doing here? Won't they take you away?" He replied that he had decided to ignore the document and that no person or thing would separate us. Suddenly I woke up and heard voices calling out that Reb Tzvi had passed away. And so it was.
I ask mercy from the Almighty that I shall merit to see the light of G-d and to come close and perceive something of the great spiritual light that shines in the world, and that we all shall merit to see our righteous Messiah speedily in our days. As it says in Sefer HaMiddos*(Tzaddik 151): "The Coming of the Messiah is dependent on drawing near to the Tzaddik." And (Tzaddik 152): "The final perfection of the soul depends on drawing near to the Tzaddikim."
Blessed be the L-rd forever and ever.
With G-d's Help. Midnight of the Sixth Day, 26 Tishray 5719 (1958)
To the Beloved of my Soul, who longs and yearns to look into the bright luminous window of the hidden sights, Mr. Zalman Shazar; may G-d exalt the horn of his salvation and open up the eyes of his mind to distinguish and see the Truth, eye to eye:
In our days a robber has invaded our territory, and he is the head of all those who afflict us. He has put an iron barrier in front of us and traps in our way. He has spread nets for our feet, and his eyes are upon us sharply. His teeth are gnashing to intimidate and attack us, in order to destroy and annihilate us. Each and every day he renews his strength and overpowers us, trying to make us drink the cup of his poison. And it is completely impossible for us to stand against him.
Therefore G-d has made a wonder for us and preceded the illness with the cure and has given us a Truly Righteous Man [Tzaddik], the head and the choicest amongst all the choice Tzaddikim. He is the teacher and leader in our generation and in all the generations to come, who will water the Earth with wisdom and knowledge of G-d, with the rivers and streams of his wisdom, rectifications, and his profound advice. In order to purify the impure, to clean the filthy, to whiten the stained, to give merit to the guilty, to forgive the intentional sinner, and to bring close those that are far away; to bring together the rejected and the lost, to set free the imprisoned, and to gladden the heart of the crushed and the outcast.
Happy is he who is saved from erring and those who wander in darkness and gloom, who cannot see and look upon the light of the True Tzaddik, who is the root of all the Tzaddikim of all the generations. For he will complete and perfect all the rectifications that the other Tzaddikim had begun in earlier generations; he will fix the entire world in ultimate perfection. With his great power, he will subdue and nullify all of the heresy and apostasy in the world and will bring great Faith to the world and will illuminate everyone with a Divine Revelation so very wondrous that the likes of which have never been heard or seen in the entire history of the world.
When the powerful poison of evil becomes overwhelming, G-d forbid, and one becomes very distant from the holiness of his Judaism; and he is wandering and being pushed away from holiness from one extreme to another: then the holiness of his very soul is aroused. And exactly at this point, if he is strong and courageous, and he begins to beseech and inquire and search and investigate at every moment and to yearn and long to find the Blessed L-rd; and even if many days or even years pass by and he still hasn't merited to find the L-rd and to draw close to Him, still he should know and believe that at each and every moment, through every longing and search that he looks for and longs to find the glory of the Holy L-rd; through every glance and longing look that he sets his eyes yearning for the mercy of the L-rd; through each and every movement that he makes towards holiness: as a result of all this he merits each time to break down walls of iron and doors of brass. And even though afterwards the evil forces overpower him again, G-d save us, still no effort is in vain, G-d forbid, and no small movement towards holiness is lost, G-d forbid. And certainly in the end he will merit to find the Blessed L-rd and to ascend the greatest ascent.
For this is the power of searching and seeking for the Blessed L-rd, even in the lowest places, in the worst exile of the soul. For such is the power of the teachings of the True Tzaddik, who turns to lovingkindness always and finds the good in every Jew; who knows how to gather together the good points in every Jew; who works to heal each and every person, even if his soul is extremely sick; who finds in such a person good points like hairs, so that when the person moves himself from bad to good even a hair's breadth, this hair becomes a channel that the Tzaddik uses to give him new understanding, until he brings him to Divine comprehension. For this is the essence of the Tzaddik's greatness, that he can heal even the most spiritually sick person.
Signed by the one who prays every day for [President Shazar's] perfection and success and who is intertwined with his precious and sublime soul at every moment, truly with all of his heart and soul, and who seeks his perfection and his welfare and the perfection of his dependents.
Yisroel Ber Odesser
With G-d's Help. 22 Nissan 5723 (1963) Jerusalem the Holy
To my bone and flesh, Mr. Zalman Shazar, who has sharpened his ears and his heart to listen to awesome wonders, to the song and the supreme melody that is the head of all the songs of the True Tzaddik. With this song he extracts from our hearts all types of poisonous arrows, the mistakes and confusions of heresy and false beliefs, and he heals us completely. The Messiah will sing this melody and through it will draw the whole world to the Blessed L-rd, thus filling the whole earth with knowledge of the L-rd. May your light break forth like the dawn and your recovery grow speedily.
I received your heartfelt blessing with a check for 100 Israeli Lirot dated 7 Nissan 5723. You revived my spirit greatly. And I rejoice with deep and endless joy when I see the strength of your desire to dig to find the deep waters from which grows our Holy Faith. You have my thankful congratulations. May the L-rd be with you and give you long life, good life, and a life of faith, which is the main life in this world and the next.
My King and my G-d, to You I pray. To You I cry for help. To You I cry out. To You I entreat. To You I spread out my hands. To You I stretch out my arms all day long. My heart cries out to the L-\204rd; from the depths of my heart I call to You. From the deepest depths I long for Your mercies and Your true forgiveness. Like a deer that craves for streams of water, so my soul yearns for You, O G-d. Like doves humming from the drumming of their hearts, so does my heart beat for Your tremendous mercies and lovingkindnesses. When the lion and the cub roar over their prey and against them cry out many shepherds; from their voices they aren't afraid and to their hordes they don't pay heed. So also I shall roar and cry out and shout and cry for help and groan and whistle and hope and expect and watch and await Your mercies and Your salvation. I shall not be mute and silent from calling to You always, O L-rd my G-d and G-d of my fathers.
From the deepest pit, O L-rd, I called Your Name. Hear, O L-rd, my crying voice. Pardon us, answer us, help us, save us, and merit us to have truly perfect Faith. Please cure us, our Father in Heaven, from flawed Faith. Guard us in Your great mercy and save us from the terrible blows that come, Heaven forbid, because of blemished Faith. Blows for which nothing helps: not medicine, not prayer, and not ancestral merit. And even all the cries of alas and woe and groans and sighs also don't help. Because everything is flawed and ruined through blemishing the Holy Faith, which is the basis of the whole Torah and the foundation of all the worlds and everything in them. For everything depends on and stands on and is fulfilled in the Holy Faith alone.
Please, awesomely holy G-d, who is full of great mercies, merit us to cry to You in truth from the depths of our heart. From the deepest depths. For we need to cry out to You now. Master of everything, all the blemishes of our hearts are revealed before You. Help us cry out to You from our hearts with a truly profound voice, with a minutely hushed voice. In a way that we shall merit to awaken upon ourselves Your wonderful mercies, kindnesses, pardons, and salvations that are so very wondrous and awesome. Until we shall merit to awaken and to reveal true counsel and profound advice from the midst of this deep darkness and gloom that we have become so ensnared in, due to our many sins. For You alone perform great wonders, greatness without explanation, miracles and wonders without number. You reveal profundity from darkness and bring into light the shadow of death.
Take us from darkness to light. Do wonders for us. Influence us with and reveal to us advice from afar, so that we shall merit to nurture the Holy Faith through this. Have mercy upon us with Your great mercies and favor us with the wisdom, insight, and knowledge of holiness, so that we shall merit to dig for and reveal the waters from which is nurtured the Holy Faith. These are the deep waters of counsel in the heart of the man. May we merit to reveal and to illuminate profound advice from the depths of darkness. Please influence us, in Your mercy, with good advice forever. Complete and true advice, according to Your good will. So that we shall merit to succeed with true and eternal success in this transient world: to go in Your good ways and to draw near to You in truth and with a complete heart, and to fulfill Your true and proper counsel.
Yisroel Ber Odesser
He searched until he found the house of a villager. The villager invited the king in and offered him some groats. He lit the stove, and let the king sleep on a pallet. This was very sweet and pleasant for the king. He was so tired and exhausted that it seemed as if he never had had such a pleasurable experience.
Meanwhile, the royal ministers sought the king, until they found him in the house, where they saw him sleeping. When the king awoke, they asked him to return to the palace with them. "You did not even attempt to rescue me," said the king. "Each one of you ran to save himself. But this man rescued me. Here I had the sweetest experience. Therefore, he will bring me back in his wagon, in these clothes, and he will seat me on my throne."
Rebbe Nachman concluded by saying that before the Messiah comes, there will be a flood. It will not be a flood of water, but of immorality and atheism. It will cover all the high mountains, even in the Holy Land, where the original flood did not reach. But this time, it will come with such strength that the water will splash over the Land. This means that it will have an effect even on virtuous hearts.
There will be no way to combat this with sophistication. All the royal ministers will be scattered, and the entire kingdom will not be firm on its foundation. Only simple Jews, who recite Psalms in simplicity, will uphold it. Therefore, when the Messiah comes, they will place the crown on his head.
[Kochavay Ohr: Stories & Parables]
An officer passed by and asked, "What are you doing, standing here and contemplating?" The man decided that it would be best to tell the whole story and ask for help, hoping that the officer would share the treasure with him. He told the officer the entire story.
The officer replied, "A Jew is concerned only with dreams! I also had a dream, and I also saw a treasure. It was in a small house, under the cellar."
In relating his dream, the officer accurately described the man's city and house. He rushed home, dug under his cellar and found the treasure. He said, "Now I know that I had the treasure all along. But in order to find it, I first had to travel to Vienna."
The same is true in serving G-d. Each person has the treasure, but in order to find it, he first must travel to the Tzaddik.
[Kochavay Ohr: Stories & Parables]
Rebbe Nachman once said: "If we saw a treasure-house, we surely would run there and dig, even if we had to get filthy with dirt and mud to break through and find the treasure. Am I not a treasure-house of the Fear of Heaven? Why aren't people eager to run after me and attain it?" When asked how it was possible to attain it, he replied: "With the lips and the heart. You must pray for it. `In your mouth and in your heart that you may do it'" [Deuteronomy 30:14]. [Chayay Moharan #295]
Map showing latitudes of Jerusalem and Uman, the Ukrainian city where Rebbe Nachman is buried. (Numbers indicate the latitudes, with their Hebrew gematria equivalents and translations, of Uman and Jerusalem.) [diagram]
Please, O Merciful One, in Your great mercy, have pity on us and merit us with and grant us the greatest possible holiness of the mind. Guard us and save us from all alien and external thoughts. Instead let us rejoice constantly with dread and awe in Your Name, with great holiness and purity, with holy and refined and pure thoughts, with the essence of refinement and illumination. Until we shall merit through the strength of our attachment to the True Tzaddik to rectify and to extract all that needs to be extracted on Rosh Hashanah, to extract all the sparks of holiness from the depths of the husks and to sweeten and to annul all of the harsh judgements in the world from ourselves and from all of Your People Israel. May there extend over us only good and kindness and salvation and great mercy, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year. Inscribe us and seal us for a good and long life and for peace, for true life, a life of Fear of Heaven, in which we shall merit to guard Your commandments and to do Your Will in truth and with a perfect heart and to rectify everything that we damaged from the day we were born until now. Bestow upon us a good livelihood and mercy and life and peace and everything that is good.
Master of the World, You know the greatness of the obligation to travel to the True Tzaddik for Rosh Hashanah, and You also know the powerfully numerous obstacles that oppose us from all sides. You who pity the destitute, have pity and spare us. Help us merit to break all the obstacles, and instruct us in Your ways and guide us in truth and teach us, that we shall merit to go and travel to the True Tzaddik, so that we may merit through him to have a truly holy mind.
For You know that now, in the footsteps [Era before the Coming] of the Messiah, our main hope and salvation lies only in the days of Rosh Hashanah, upon which we depend to draw near to You and to draw down upon us Your Divinity and Sovereignty from Rosh Hashanah onto the entire year. Now, however, we don't know what to do on the holy days of Rosh Hashanah and how to appease You appropriately, so that we should merit to accept upon ourselves Your Sovereignty with dread and awe. Nor how to stand up against all our enemies and accusers, to shut the mouth of our adversaries and accusers, except through the merit and the power of the True Tzaddik, upon whom we lean and depend, for he fights for us and subdues and casts down all of our enemies and pursuers, and draws upon us the holiness of Rosh Hashanah in perfection.
Therefore, have mercy upon us for Your Name's sake and help us to merit to break all the obstacles and to merit to come to the True Tzaddik on Rosh Hashanah and to attach ourselves to him in truth and to merit to a perfectly sanctified mind through him, and to merit to sweeten and annul all the harsh judgements and to draw upon ourselves loving kindness. Let us merit to recognize and to know Your Exaltedness and Your Kingdom over us, and may You rule over us in glory soon. May every creature know that You created it, and may every being know that You fashioned it, and may every soul exclaim: "The L-rd, G-d of Israel, is King and His Dominion is over all." And purify us and sanctify us with Your most sublime holiness from now and forever, Amen, Selah!
[Likutay Tefillos I:76]
Special Thanks to:
Aryeh Yehudah Leib ben Shifra
Daniel Elazar ben Ya'el
David ben Sarah
Menachem Mendel ben Freida
Reuven ben Sarah Raizel HaCohen
Sharon Shlomo ben Chava Shulamit
Shimon ben Sarah
Uri ben Shoshana and Neta Gania bat Hadassa
Yonatan and Talia of Tzefat
For a Complete Recovery:
Aryeh Leib ben Golda Zahava
Avraham ben Bracha
Chizkiyahu Feivel ben Feigal
Daniel ben Allegra
Moshe ben Rachel
Yosef Yitzchak ben Chana Rachel Devora
Chana Rachel Devora bas Le'ah
Rivka bat Solika
Grave of Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser in Jerusalem.
A pamphlet describing the life of Rabbi Odesser and his letter
and song is available from firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may address questions and comments here as well.
- Menachem ben David