Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Question & Answer With A Yid - Becoming A Breslover Chassid

A Simple Jew asks:

What was it about the teachings of Rebbe Nachman that inspired you become a Breslover chassid?

A Yid answers:

Essentially, I was looking for Chassidus that wasn't only externally presenting Chassidic values, but actually possessed the inner essence of what Chassidus is all about. That's eventually what seriously brought me to Breslov. (We already had several discussions about the light of Chasidus and problems of concealment. All this is related to this issue). However the conscious realizition of this happened when I analyzed it more. Originally I was attracted to Breslov through Sippurei Maasios (may be it sounds funny, but it is so) and it's mystical feeling. I wasn't comfortable with Chabad (not the teachings, but the system itself today), and Breslov was a way to go.

A Simple Jew responds:

What were the first steps you took to become a Breslover chassid after you read Sippurei Maasios?

A Yid responds:

I tried to find contacts with Breslover Chassidim around, because one obviously needs teachers. It took quite a long time though to get to know some people and to find serious teachers who could help me with making a start in learning Breslover sforim and getting into Breslover mesoyro. I also tried to use the common values of Chassidim and apply them to everyday life. I understood that one has to learn the core teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, since all Chassidus came out of him. This helped me a lot especially in Breslov, because it strongly builds on Baal Shem Tov, and many things are assumed self obvious, however if one is not aware of them - he is just missing them out! (Because they aren't mentioned explicitly and often only hinted). Unlike Chabad, Breslov has a different approach of how the Chassidus itself is presented. While Chabad is a very structured system, and tends to be "the thing in itself", Breslov right a way uses a different approach. It challenges the one who starts approach it with high difficulty, often not linearly structured way of presenting teachings and requirement to know tons of other stuff to really get into it.

A Simple Jew responds:

I completely understand what you mean. With out the audio shiurim of Rabbi Nasan Maimon, learning Likutey Moharan would be extremely difficult to learn. What other seforim with the core teachings of the Baal Shem Tov do you think are essential for a person to learn to aid him learning Breslover Chassidus?

A Yid responds:

This has two components. Firstly one has to try to understand to the best of his ability at least the simple meaning and the flow of the maymor. But secondly, (as Reb Luzer Kenig once said when we discussed the way of learning Likutey Moharan, that the main thing is to penetrate and understand what the Rebbe really wants to say and to deliver to us with particular teaching).

From accounts in Chayei Moharan and other sources recorded by Reb Noson, it seems that often the Rebbe deliberately obscured his teachings - i.e. when he was presented with the written version of his maymor (which Reb Noson wrote down) he would take out some parts and etc, which obviously makes it harder to grasp, and often Reb Noson himself admits that he didn't know the exact purpose of it.

I also found, that within Breslov some stress this connection with essential teachings of the Baal Shem Tov more, some less. The mesoyro that Reb Avrohom Shternhartz ztz"l brought - strongly stresses it implicitly. This is evident even more, since his own teacher and grandfather - Reb Nachman miTcherin ztz"l wrote "Derech Chassidim" and "Loshen Chasidim" where he collected a lot of teachings of the Talmidei Baal Shem Tov and Talmidei HaMaggid. I've heard, that in Uman when a kehilo of Chassidim still existed there before the war and persecutions of the Bolsheviks didn't yet destroyed it, Russian Breslovers (even bochurim) had special sdorim to learn Talmidei Baal Shem Tov and Talmidei HaMaggid. When I asked Reb Luzer what sforim in particular should I choose for that, he was reluctant to specify any set "program". It was understood, that one has to pave his own path for this matter that fits best with one's needs. He just mentioned, that there are a lot of sforim for that, for example mentioned in "Derech Chassidim" and "Loshen Chassidim".

I have personally found very useful "Sefer Baal Shem Tov al HaTorah" as a reference on multiple teachings of the Baal Shem Tov (however when learning it one has try to refer to sources, because it often takes quotes out of context leaving the reader to research the rest himself). From Talmidei Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid and other early sforim I found very useful and essential - "Meor Eynaim" (Chernobyl), "Imrei Pinchas" (Koretz), "Tshuos Chein" (Linitz), "Tanya" (and many othermaymorim of Baal HaTanya), "Ohr HaMeir" (Zhitomir), "Pri Ha'aretz" (Vitebsk), "Kedushas Levi" (Berdichev), "Chessed leAvrohom" (Reb Avrohom haMalach) and other sforim. I also discovered such later sforim like "Toldos Aharon" (Reb Aharon miZhitomir ztz"l the talmid of Kedushas Levi), "She'eris Yisroel" (Reb Yisroel Dov Ber miVilednik ztz"l) which discuss many essential subjects.

Another gem is the more recent "Chovas HaTalmidim" from Piaceszner Rebbe. Written in recent times, it explains many core Chassidic ideas in a beautiful way. His other sforim like "Bnei Machshava Tova" and "Mevo Shearim" are also very notable.

But again - one has to find his own way in the waters of Chassidus. One "clicks" more with some sefer, other with another one.


At August 8, 2007 at 8:17:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you aware of any successful or at least interesting attempts to organize/systematize Breslover or general Chassidic teachings in the analytical way Rambam's Yad HaChazakah (Mishneh Torah) tried to do with the Gemara?

At August 8, 2007 at 11:48:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for this post. pls list any of these sforim that are in english.
i find likutey moharan to be an amazing work. maybe because i'm an artist, i see/perceive differently. i open it up, and just a sentence or two bH can really inspire me..then it leads to further reading and immersion.
i feel that this sefer really has ruach hakodesh.
for example, recently i was reading in vol 3 (english) about the shechinah as the supernal heart.

At August 8, 2007 at 12:05:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob Miller: Early attempts were made by Reb Noson, but it was just constricting teachings and organizing them by subjects, without any explanations. These are Kitzur Likutey Moharan and Likutey Eytzoys.

Later it was continued by Tcherinter Rov - Reb Nachman miTcherin ztz"l (there were probably earlier attempts too, but that ksovim are lost now). And he started to write not only drushim based on Likutey Moharan, and kitzurim, but actually started to write pirushim on Likutey Moharan itself - Parporposy leChochmo, Zimras Hooretz, Yerech Hoeysoinim, Yekoro deShabato and others that were lost (see later about it). He was one of the outstanding early organizers of Breslover teachings.

His grandson and talmid - Reb Avrohom Shternhzartz ztz"l continued this work, and he himself wrote very deep sforim and pirushim on Likutey Moharan. But disastrously, they were all lost in Yerusholaim during the war with arabs, together with numerous other ksovim including many ksovim of the Tcheriner Rov. Talmidim of Reb Avrohom say, that the loss of his ksovim which where never printed, is one of the main disastrous reasons, why Reb Avrohom is barely known to many Breslovers today, while he was an unsurpassed figure in Breslov in his generation. It combines with the old practice of many Russian chasidim and tzadikim to hide one's greatness, and to pretend to be a "regular" person. (You could hear such stories for example about Reb Shloymke Zviler ztz"l and other tzadikim from Ukraine and Russia). All this caused Reb Avrohom to remain "unnoticed" so to say, and unfortunately this caused a very unfare underestimation of his true statue by many even in his time.

Such work was continued though by the talmid muvhak of Reb Avrohom - Reb Gedalya Kenig ztz"l. From what I managed to know about him, and his teachings - he resembled the Rama"k in his approach, and his style of explaining Chasidus was crystal clear and lucid, and very systematic. He wrote quite a number of sforim, including his main work - systematic explanation on many "bechinoys" in Likutey Moharan. Probably this is precisely what you asked about. (This seyfer is mentioned in Mafteach on Likutey Moharan compiled by his nephew - Reb Noson Tzvi Kenig). Very unfortunately his sfroim are unpublished until now and I have no idea when they'll be published. He also wrote many letters to different people concerning many questions in Breslover Chasidus, and there too he used his usual systematic and clear style. Reb Gedalya preserved copies of his letters, intending that they'll be published some time. Out of them only few were published so far, on of them as a kuntreys "Chayey Nefesh" which is recommended highly to any serious Breslover. Few other letters were published in Breslover magazines and newsletters. But the main bulk of them is still unpublished. I've heard rumors, that they are being prepared for publishing no by Reb Moyshe Kremer, but so far I have no idea if it's true (I'll try to ask Reb Moyshe himself about it).

At August 8, 2007 at 12:07:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous: There is Tania in English. Most of these sforim where never translated, because of a high diffictulty of such task. I understand it makes it pretty hard to many who only start to learn Loshn Koydesh. But eventually those who delve into the depth of Chasidus are required to turn to original sources.

At August 8, 2007 at 12:20:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is A Yid or anyone else here going to Uman for Rosh Hashana? Do you guys go every year?

At August 8, 2007 at 2:01:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob Miller: And about organization of general chasidic teachings in structured way - it was made by several notable schools of Chasidus. Firstly Chabad. You might find very interesting early Chabad sforim - Baal haTanina, Reb Arharon Strasheler and Mittler Rebe. Also look in Izhbitz/Radzin and Pyasetchno.

At August 8, 2007 at 2:02:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous: We try :)

At August 8, 2007 at 5:02:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Essentially, I was looking for Chassidus that wasn't only externally presenting Chassidic values, but actually possessed the inner essence of what Chassidus is all about."

does that mean one doesn't have to adhere to a dress code?

At August 8, 2007 at 5:40:00 PM EDT, Blogger Unknown said...

One of the things that I loved about Breslov is that there are no strict guidelines as far as dress code and just minhagim in general. One need not chnge their minhagim, as long as one learns Rabeinu's teachings and tries living by them he can call himself a Breslover chosid. Uman, Uman, Rosh Hashana!! The time is near! See you there!

At August 8, 2007 at 5:53:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

> does that mean one doesn't have to
> adhere to a dress code?

> One of the things that I loved
> about Breslov is that there are no
> strict guidelines as far as dress
>code and just minhagim in general

This has it's reasonable limits. Note that it is not true, that there aren't ANY guidelines. While Breslov is tolerant to newcomers, it is not a anarchist club.

Rebbe in Chayey Moharan does speak about chasidic dress and chasidic "look". He praises chasidic long kapotes, and is critical of short "german" style (short European jackets). He is as well very critical of shaving one's beard and completely removing peyoys.

While Breslov doesn't make it the main focus of Chasidus (like some might do), it doesn't mean that this subject is completely "out of the window".

At August 8, 2007 at 6:03:00 PM EDT, Blogger Unknown said...

A Yid. True, true. I was basing my comment on an article Will The Real Breslov Please Stand Up (
And I quote. " Whether by intention or default, Breslov is more individualistic than other Chassidic groups. It has no "dress code," nor does it emphasize special customs (although a few have been preserved). An Ashkenazic Jew is encouraged to follow an Ashkenazic Rav, a Sephardic Jew is encouraged to follow a Sephardic Rav, etc. You can be a sincere Breslover Chassid without adopting the outer trappings of another culture, but simply by devotedly studying and following Rebbe Nachman's teachings and adhering to the dictates of halacha (normative religious law).

However, like everything else in Judaism, this requires submission to a qualified living teacher and establishing a connection to the mesorah -- the chain of transmission from master to disciple throughout the ages. Otherwise, you will constantly make mistakes until you acquire broad knowledge of the texts; a process that may take many years, and you will probably fool yourself when confronted by concepts that challenge your previous assumptions. Only a living teacher can show you your own foibles, making it possible to get beyond the ego and grasp a bit of truth.

At August 8, 2007 at 6:09:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think either extreme is bad. To make the outward appearance and minhogim the ikkar (forgetting about inner essence) is wrong, because it misses the whole point. But wild anarchism and hippism is wrong either because it misses the whole point too.

I think person as a Breslover chosid should value general chasidic values (in dress or other things). However this is not what will make him a chosid.

At August 8, 2007 at 6:26:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Talmid said...

Many Breslovers, particularly, talmidim of Reb Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld, although they don't dress wild, wear short jackets and appear like regular "American Baalabatim" (nice suits etc.) but are major ovdim.

At August 8, 2007 at 6:36:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Talmid: This surprised me though (and I didn't figure it out). I doubt that they didn't learn Chayey Moharan. How do you explain it?

At August 8, 2007 at 6:38:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(I mean mainly Reb Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld himself and his talmidim).

At August 8, 2007 at 7:04:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi Chaim Kramer himself (son-in-law of Rabbi Rosenfeld) of Breslov Research Institute I believe wears a short jacket. He is fluent in all Breslov seforim.

At August 8, 2007 at 7:24:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous: So how can you explain it?-)

At August 8, 2007 at 11:40:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Klausenberger Rebbe zy'a wrote in Shefa Chaim al Shovavim,

"And due to our many sins what is to be said and how do we speak? It was always is continually known that Chassidic dress are a fence and a hedge [in order] for a person not to come to serious transgressions. And in our times this isn’t any type of fence or hedge, may G-d have compassion upon us, because they do the acts of Zimri like all of the gentiles and request the reward of Pinchas. How is it that they dress themselves in pious clothing and crown themselves with a beard and peyos?" (sorry for my sorry translation)

But the answer isn't to abandon chassidish dress, or there is no reason to wear chassidish dress, but rather focus on the ikkur and not the taful.

Nevertheless as long (as the Moshiach hasn't come and) we raise our children to be Chassidic/Jewish you will have adults who are/do Jewish/Chassidic because that's just how they were raised. The main thing is to work on ourselves and do our best to transmit a desire for avodas Hashem to our children.

At August 9, 2007 at 1:27:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Good quote.

At August 9, 2007 at 1:37:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have a question:

what about when observant jews put details of halacha ahead of ahavat yisrael...ahead of simple consideration for their fellow jew?
i had a problem at a shul i love. on was way too cold, i tapped the thermostat twice( i know it's forbidden, but i didn't want to get sick)...and some people got real upset. they seemed more concerned with two degrees, than a fellow jew who was concerned about his health.
this is just one example. i want to be more in the observant world, but i cant' take this attention to halacha that over-rides consideration for an individual yid.
yes, i understant we are supposed to bend to halacha and not the other way, but that is not my point is true menshlekeit, true kiruv..
i feel ready to abandon any desires of being really observant because i can't take the strictures at the expense of consideration and kindness.
to me, this is very sad.

At August 9, 2007 at 6:03:00 AM EDT, Blogger Unknown said...

"trying 2B more religious" You can't judge Judaism by the Jews! Halacha does come first, but there is a way to convey things that many people are missing out on. The only answer I have when people tell me similar stories to your's is that you can help changing this attitude by teaching your children true derech eretz. But always remember, we cannot sacrifice halacha in order to be more "civilized".

I understand that Rav Rosenfeld z"l himself was clean shaven for many years. I've asked one of his taslmidim and will bli neder post the answer as soon as I get it.

At August 9, 2007 at 10:40:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Talmid said...

I asked Rabbi Chaim Kramer (son-in-law of Rabbi Tvzi Aryeh Rosenfeld) of the Breslov Research Center, , who is a baki in all of Torah besides of course Breslov seforim, regarding the issue of short/long jackets and shaving the beard as has been discussed recently. The following is his reply:

Where does Rebbe Nachman teach about wearing long coats? The only place I
know of is in a note by Rabbi Kaplan o"h in the book Rabbi Nachman's Stories
in the second story. It is a reference to the German Enlightenment of that
time. So don't take it to heart. There does NOT exist a dress code in
Breslov. Only those who want to impose their view upon others have a dress
code. I too wear a short jacket.

Shaving the beard. In halakhah it's permitted (done in a permitted way). In
Kabbalah it's a very important thing to have a beard.

Best wishes,

Chaim Kramer

At August 9, 2007 at 11:04:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Talmid: I'll give sources if you want. About shaving and clothes in Breslover sforim.

I'm surprised that R' Chaim Kremer is not aware of them, saying that "there does NOT exist a dress code in Breslov" which can denote that there is nothing to say about it from the Breslov perspective.

While anarchist ideas did catch on in many Breslover circles, they aren't inherently Breslov ideas at all (even though I admit that general situation with leadership did lead to such things).

At August 9, 2007 at 12:48:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

please, i still would like to hear from others about my question: how to deal with jews who seem to put details of halacha ahead of simple kindness and consideration of their fellow jews...esp when it's precisely that attitude which can seriously discourage people who are trying 2B more religious...
isn't this a central issue? the second temple went down because of it.

At August 9, 2007 at 1:11:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trying2b: The way to deal is to patently explain the importance of ahavas Yisroel (if they are ready to listen). Again, ahavas Yisroel doesn't mean support or encouragement of the wrong behavior.

At August 9, 2007 at 1:32:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you, that is helpful. we must use ahavat yisrael even in these situations. but my question is also broader: this is a phenomenon in the larger religous world. i am so delighted and encouraged when people do understand it; but it can be devastating when they don't. i wish it was addressed more fully and frequently.

At August 9, 2007 at 5:22:00 PM EDT, Blogger Unknown said...

"t2b" Don't know if you saw this but it seems like this isn't a new problem.

A beautiful line from the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, who writes this in the name of his grandfather...

What good is Chassidus and piety if the main quality is lacking - Ahavat Yisrael, love of another - even to the extent of causing (G-d forbid) anguish to another!

What more need be said? Piety that's strictly in the relationship with G-d, but ignores the relationship with fellow man, not only is worthless, it's damaging!

At August 10, 2007 at 1:59:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

fj, thanks..

my prayer and hope is this: that in the observant world both in usa, israel etc, that there will be a noticeable effort by religious jews in both outreach and kindness to their fellow jews.
for religious people to look at the non- or not-so religious brothers and sisters and honestly feel: these are precious jewish souls that must be treated with respect and can we reach out to them in a way that they can receive with warmth; so they don't feel pressured, "not good/observant" enough,and that they have much both to learn and contribute to am yisrael.
is this easy? i don't know. is it necessary? well, do you want the Redemption soon?
there must be a way for the observant world to really take the message of r levi yitzhak, the besht, reb nachman et al and really embody it especially to their fellow jews who may not be as religious...
it's one thing to say v'ahavta lereacha kamocha before's another to also take that into the world.
with the crisis of so many jews unaffiliated, assimilated or worse...what would akiva do? what would the hassidic masters do?

At January 14, 2010 at 4:14:00 PM EST, Blogger Russell Grayson said...

Rather than obsess upon the wardrobe details, perhaps it's better that attention should be given to the garments of the neshama--to ahavas yisroel, to hisbodeus, to tzedakah--both financial and with chesed to every other yid--and good middos in relating to every living soul.


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