A Question About Advice
Akiva of Mystical Paths asked:
In Sichos HaRan, #35 and #220, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov warns us of a time of great atheism, to strengthen us against the great temptations in the times before Moshiach. He follows this with #36, stating that "There will come a time when a simple religious man will be as rare and unique as the Baal Shem Tov."
Given that Sichos HaRan #220 talks of spreading atheism in that day, and comparing the generation following the passing of Rabbi Nachman to today I would consider when this was written to be a time of great faith (compared to today), what practical instruction does Rabbi Nachman provide to us to resist these great temptations and further, perhaps more importantly, to provide to our children? Clearly, if (G-d forbid) Moshiach does not come immediately, the challenges will continue to increase. Has the Rebbe predicted with the statement from #36 above that almost none of our children will be left hanging on to their emunah (faith) when Moshiach arrives? (G-d forbid!)
A Simple Jew responded:
Akiva, I am flattered that you would ask me these questions about Rebbe Nachman of Breslov since my knowledge of his teachings is miniscule in comparison with that of my teachers. Even though I learn Likutey Moharan every day, I understand very little. Nevertheless, since my neshoma is drawn to his teachings, I will try to answer your questions.
One of the best sources for Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's advice can be found in the sefer Likutey Eitzos. Likutey Eitzos contains a chapter entitled Hischazkus (Encouragement) that provides guidance relevant to your question about how to strengthen our faith in these days before Moshiach. To begin with, Likutey Eitzos (Hischazkus #17) encourages us to view our present reality with a different set of lenses; with the lenses of simple faith rather than those of sophistication:
"When G-d appears to reject us, His purpose is really to draw us closer. A person who wants to draw closer to G-d often finds that all kinds of hardship and suffering and other obstacles descend upon him, at times with great force. He may start thinking that he is deliberately being rejected. But really these experiences are very beneficial and they serve to draw him closer. The most important thing is to be very firm and resolute, to stand up to the test and not let oneself be deterred by the suffering and obstacles and the sense of rejection. It is a mistake to think that one is being rejected. He should have simple faith that whatever he has to go through is for his own good -- to bring him to strengthen himself and draw even closer to G-d. The whole purpose of this apparent rejection is to draw him closer to G-d."
Indeed, it may seem difficult for people on our lowly spiritual level to maintain this elevated state of consciousness. Likutey Eitzos (Hischazkus #18), however, suggests there is a way that we may accomplished it:
"The way to remain firm is by using the power of speech. Even if you fall, be resolute and speak words of truth -- words of Torah and prayer and the fear of Heaven. Talk to G-d. Talk to your friends also, and especially your teacher. Speech has a great power to remind a person of G-d's presence and give him strength even in situations which are very far removed from holiness"
From the above teaching, we see that Rebbe Nachman's advice is three-fold. To strengthen your simple faith you must:
1) Make time for hisbodedus and talk directly to Hashem in your own words*;
2) Attach yourself to friends who bring out the best in you; friends to whom you can speak of your spiritual struggles and accomplishments; and
3) Attach yourself to your teacher (see Rabbi Lazer Brody's posting "Vertigo" for more on this topic).
Finally, you asked, "Has the Rebbe predicted with the statement from #36 above that almost none of our children will be left hanging on to their emunah (faith) when Moshiach arrives?" Akiva, given my little knowledge, I do not feel qualified to answer your question about what will happen before Moshiach arrives. While Rebbe Nachman of Breslov told us that it will be a time of great atheism, he also encouraged us to do everything in our power to ensure that this atheism doesn't take root in our own minds.
I don't think that Sichos HaRan #36 predicts that none of our children will be left hanging on. Rather, Rebbe Nachman predicted that the majority of our people would not be able to maintain their faith -- which tragically is the case today. And maybe that even many of those who remained Torah observant would lack the qualities of simplicity and whole-heartedness, which are the foundation of everything in Yiddishkeit.
* For more on the subject of hisbodedus, I highly recommend the book Outpouring of the Soul.