Friday, September 08, 2006

Wikipedia & Na Nach Nachma

Yesterday, my friend Breslever posted What's Na-Nach-Nachman?

This morning, I noticed that Wikipedia also has an entry about this that contains the following information:

"Not all Breslover Hasidim use Na Nach Nachma (some groups actually oppose it) and not everyone believes it is an authentic writing from Rebbe Nachman. The following are some of the diverse opinions:

Rabbi Odesser believed the "Letter from Heaven" was a genuine miracle, pointing out that the bookcase where the petek (note) appeared was locked at the time, and he had the only key. His followers believed in the miracle also. They continue to this day to chant the phrase as a "Song of Redemption" for the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Odesser's personal account of how he found the Letter has been translated into English under the title The Letter from Heaven: Rebbe Nachman's Song.

In May 1984, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote a letter of approbation, endorsing Odesser's efforts to raise funds for publishing Rebbe Nachman's books. In this document, Feinstein said: "I am writing on behalf of a most unusual individual, Rabbi Yisroel Dov Odesser, shlita, from Israel. This individual is a gaon of Torah. I had the pleasure of recently meeting with him and was inspired by a secret document which he possesses." This seems to imply that Rabbi Feinstein thought the letter was authentic, although he did not explicitly say so. (The Letter from Heaven: Rebbe Nachman's Song, p. 2)

Some people believe that the letter was a note written to someone by Rebbe Nachman when he visited Tiberias during his pilgrimage to Israel in the early 19th century. Somehow it was placed in the old book, but Odesser's finding it was a coincidence (or miracle of timing), as was the reference to someone eating on the Fast of Tammuz.

Still others believe it was a well-intentioned forgery, written by one of Rabbi Odesser's fellow students in order to cheer him up after he got depressed from breaking his fast. (See The Writing on the Wall, which expresses this opinion.)

Rabbi Zev Reichmann (head of the Yeshiva University Mechina Program, student of Rav Aaron Soloveitchik, and son of Rav Herschel Reichmann) notes that many within common Orthodox society hold the view that people who wear "Na Nach Nachma" yarmulkes (see below) are not considered to be real Breslovers. (This view clashes with the traditional Breslover notion that whoever, with a pure heart, considers himself to be a Breslover, is a Breslover. As noted on the Breslover Hasidim page, the Breslov movement is not centralized and does not have an official membership list.)

Whatever the origins of this mantra, it is now very popular among certain sub-groups of Breslover Hasidim, and has been incorporated into both traditional and contemporary Jewish music. During the millennium fervor before the Year 2000, the Na Nach Nachma was widely distributed and publicized in Israel, appearing on bumper stickers, billboards, graffiti, etc. It has also been used on jewelery and amulets.

More recently, some people have begun to wear it on large white knitted yarmulkes with a little tassel on top. (These hats are a modification of a traditional white yarmulke that has been worn in Jerusalem for centuries. That style, in turn, apparently evolved from the medieval Jewish hat with the ball on top -- hence the tassel.) During the time that Reb Odesser was still alive, some of his followers were already wearing large white yarmulkes, but without the mantra on them. Na Nach Nachma yarmulkes in other colors are also appearing on the market now.

The mantra continues to be chanted by both Hasidic and non-Hasidic Jews, as well as some non-Jews who use it as a form of kabbalah meditation. Those who chant it are sometimes referred to as "Na-Nachers". Among some groups of Sephardic Jewish youth in Israel, it has become a sort of rallying cry for returning to traditional Judaism, although not necessarily to mainstream Breslov."

UPDATE: Will the Real Breslov Please Stand Up?


At September 8, 2006 at 7:47:00 AM EDT, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Thanks for the fascinating history (especially the Rav Moshe part!) and the different takes on the letter. Na Nach... was the most common graffitti I saw in Israel by was everywhere! Do you know what Rav Maimon or Rav Sears or Rav Bergman have to say about the Na Nach phenomenon? I am curious...

At September 8, 2006 at 2:40:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Few points:

None of the colleagues of Reb Yisroel Odesser (old Breslover chasidim) ever took serious this story with "petek" and Na Nach. While he himself probably thought the whole thing to be true, none of his own freinds and other Breslover elders did. About if "nanachniks" are Brelovers or not - the question should be posed, do they represent Breslover mesoyro or not. I personally think that they don't represent it at all. They are probably Breslovers just because they are coming to Uman and learning sifrey Breslov, but their views are foreign to the spirit of Breslov itself, so call it as you wish, I think the main thing is not a name, but deeds.

One of my friends noted recently, that all the groups which claim that they possess the light of Chasidus even today, and who claim to be special even today have the biggest amount of meshugoim attracted to them (he brought examples of Breslov, Chabad and Pshischo). He said, it just shows that there truly is something more, than usual, and meshugas is a klipo of that bigger kdusho. He said, some Pshischer chasidim used to wedr cabbage leaves(!) instead of yarmolkes, to show that conformizm is not the main thing in avoydo. (Reminds me of nanachniks today). While such show can have a positive intention, for many it is just a complete shigoen, and there are many mentally unstable people attracted to such groups.

At September 8, 2006 at 2:47:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to note - Pshischa today doesn't exist as it was before. The example was about the time when this Chasidus was very active and big, until most of Poylishe Yiddn were killed buy the natzis yimach shmom.

At September 10, 2006 at 3:36:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

A Yid: Probably a more accurate comparison of some the unstable elements found in Breslov & Chabad today would be some of the Chassidim of R. Avraham Kalisker, who made Aliya together with Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk; rather than those of Pshis'cha.

At September 12, 2006 at 8:59:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that this post has not generated more comments. Perhaps this is a sign that the whole "NachNacher" phenomenon isn't such an odd thing after all.

My understanding is that Reb Yisroel Ber Odesser zal, was a huge tzaddik with a massive knowledge of Breslov teachings. The only conflict he had with other gedolim in Breslov is over whether Rebbenu Nachman's tzion should be moved to Eretz Yisroel or not. With regards to such a dispute, I'll keep in mind the teaching of Rebbeni Nachman which reminds us that the disputes of tzaddikim are on levels few of us can understand and should have no affect on whether we can rejoice and live together as jews.

At September 13, 2006 at 11:49:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

> this post has not generated more comments.
> Perhaps this is a sign that the whole "NachNacher"
> phenomenon isn't such an odd thing

It is more than odd, that's why people are not so interested to discuss it I guess.

> The only conflict he had with other gedolim in Breslov
> is over whether Rebbenu Nachman's tzion should be moved
> to Eretz Yisroel or not.

Probably it's really not proper to call it a conflict after all, because all other breslover chasidim just didn't consider his story with "petek" worth their time, because it wasn't more than a joke for them. About the moving - it's enough to say that Rebbe zy"o himself said to come to Uman. There is nothing more to add here.

At April 8, 2008 at 8:33:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ibelieve that the most vulnerable populations to Christian prosyletizers are the Lubavitchers who think their Rebbe is the Moshiach. The alliance between orthodox Jews & the likes of John Hagee also don't well for our people in the long run. It will be easy for the prosyletizers to rope in the overly enthusiatic types like the messianic Lubavs & the N Na etc. Types.

At August 24, 2008 at 5:36:00 PM EDT, Blogger mojo said...

why should the christians yimach shemam bother with the mainstreamers, they already sold out!

At September 2, 2008 at 5:08:00 PM EDT, Blogger saba-noon said...

The following is a list of names of Rabbi's that form the tradition that Saba (R' Odesser) received. Rebbe Nachman's main student was R' Noson. who published all the major books of R' Nachman. In R' Noson's house lived R' Moshe Breslover, who served R' Noson. note: Rebbe Nachman says that the servant of the teacher is the true receiver of the teacher's light. R' Moshe Breslover taught R" Israel Karduner. (One of the 36 hidden Tzadikim) R' Israel Karduner was the teacher of R' Odesser (The Saba). Saba received a letter from R' Nachman miraculously. Saba believed this with all of his heart mind and soul. Saba in turn said that one does not "need" a living teacher.. Rather only the books of R' Nachman, to pray to G-d and friends to talk to about These things. Saba basically said that all the "leaders" of Breslov were false and that he was the only true leader of Breslov. Saba was a very, very, happy man his whole life who laughed a lot.


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