Nachman of Breslov promised us:
" My fire will burn until the Coming of the Messiah."
Reveal the Light of Rebbe Nachman
RABBI YISROEL BER ODESSER
1888 : Tiberias - Ottoman Empire
Yisroel Ber was born in 1888 in Tiberias, a small village (at that time) bordering on the Sea of Galilee, when Eretz Yisroel was under the control of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire.
His family were Karliner Chassidim, a large and famous Chassidic sect at that time. His father was blind, and his mother ran a bakery to support the family. They lived in a tiny domicile and in great poverty.
At night before going to sleep, the large family would spread out straw mattresses on the floor. They would eat bread with a bit of onion and tea.
The young Yisroel Ber studied at the Yeshiva of Rebbe Meir Ba'al HaNess on the outskirts of Tiberias, nestled at the foot of the mountains next to the Sea. Even as a young child, Yisroel Ber would give his lunch (a piece of bread with a few drops of oil) to the poor in the town in order to merit to give Tzedakah (charity). He was left without strength, ravenous, and suffered from terrible headaches. His teacher noticed Yisroel Ber's lack of participation in the class and, thinking he was a lazy student, would punish him cruelly. Despite this Yisroel Ber continued to perform his charitable acts, even with these punishments.
At home his father would give each child a bit of oil for his bedside lamp. Yisroel Ber would use this each night to recite the Midnight Lament. When his oil ran out he would take more from the family's supply in order to continue his Divine Service throughout the night, and by the end of the week no oil remained for Shabbat. His Parents understood that young Yisroel Ber had finished the oil for his nighttime diligence.
As Yisroel Ber grew up he would pray to God with great fervor. He also would fast on the eve of every Rosh Chodesh (new Jewish month). He fought great battles against the evil inclination; yet even so he felt lacking in his Divine service. He sought out and consulted with Elder Chassidim who were renowned for their piety and fear of God concerning his doubts and temptations. But he received only partial answers that did not quench his thirst for purification. His soul burned to serve God. He wanted to draw near to God as much as humanly possible. This was his purpose. He wanted to study the Torah and to grow in spirituality. His family, who suffered from dire poverty, wanted him to work and to help support the family, but he refused categorically to reduce his Divine service. Eventually they accepted this and allowed him to continue on his spiritual path.
Time passed and, as an adolescent yearning greatly for holiness, his service of God continued. However he lacked practical techniques and weapons with which to battle his evil inclination, his passions, his small mindedness, and his physical needs. He hoped and yearned, and even dreamed, about spiritual perfection and purification. He wanted to serve God in perfect simplicity. From where would come the help that he so awaited?
One day in the Yeshiva Yisroel Ber found a book without a cover in the garbage. He removed it in order to dispose of it in a fitting way for holy objects. But before he did this he read some of the book and he was shocked to see that this book, Outpouring of the Soul, explained how to draw near to God in truth and how to become purified and reach the highest good, and how to achieve his spiritual aspirations. Simply put, a gift from Heaven for a soul searching for the ultimate purpose of life. The book affirmed that by speaking to God in a private and personal way, called Hitbodedut, he could reach the highest levels of holiness. This was the secret method of the Holy Shepherds of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David, who became completely righteous only through this method of private and personal conversation with God.
Immediately Yisroel Ber began to implement this technique. He fled to the mountains that surrounded the Yeshiva and would speak and pray with all of his soul, pouring out his heart to God. This technique was so effective that he soon saw results. His heart felt relief, his sense of deficiency diminished, and gradually he felt spiritual fulfillment. But everyone in the Yeshiva, both Rabbis and students, discouraged him from this path and forbade him from learning this book. They eventually took the book from him by force. However he already knew the book by heart, and he was able to continue with its teachings.
His teachers and friends said: "Get away from this book and all Breslov books!" "Breslov," they had said. Yisroel Ber wanted to know more about this forbidden group! But how? The book had said that everything can be attained through prayer and hitbodedut. So Yisroel Ber began to pray earnestly to God to send him someone to teach him in the ways of Breslov.
MERON : THE HOLY GRAVE OF RABBI SHIMON BAR YOCHAI
About a one day's journey by donkey from Tiberias is Meron, a tiny village with the Holy Tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the great Talmudic Sage and Teacher of the Zohar, the book of Jewish mystical tradition. Someone there never leaves the gravesite the entire week.. He prays and learns there and returns home to his family in Tzefat only for Shabbat. He is a Hidden Tzaddik. Day and night he pours out his heart at this holy place, from where prayers rise up with great power. The Tzaddik is named Rabbi Yisroel Karduner, may his merit protect us.
He had grown up in a wealthy family in Eastern Europe, and had a secure future in the family business. But after he found out about Breslov Chassidus, he fled to Uman, the burial place of Rebbe Nachman, where he spent much time praying at his gravesite. Eventually he moved to Eretz Yisroel with great self-sacrifice and found a place for his intense devotions in Meron. Nothing could induce him to leave the lofty spiritual serenity of Meron, which was uninhabited at that time and rarely visited by anyone. But suddenly he began to suffer from terrible pains of rheumatism. He struggled for some time to nullify these pains through his fervent devotions, but eventually the pains grew so severe that he was forced against his will to journey to Tiberias with the intention of soaking in the famous hotsprings as a cure for his afflictions. And there occurred the crucial meeting between teacher and student (see the complete story as told by Rabbi Yisroel Ber).
HIS TEST : COMING NEAR TO THE TRUE TZADDIK
From the moment that he found the Breslov book in the Yeshiva, Yisroel Ber began to experience fierce opposition from his fellow students, his neighbors, and even his family. They harrassed him whenever he would meet with Rabbi Yisroel Karduner. All of Tiberias was against him. However, arguments, insults, threats, blows, and all types of pressures failed to unnerve him. Even his blind father, whom he loved deeply, rebuked him. Also the leading Rabbis of Tiberias condemned his involvement with Breslov. But an even crueler test still awaited him.
When his mother saw that her son, Yisroel Ber, was "lost" and utterly committed to Breslov teachings, she lost consciousness and died. She was brought to the Burial Society to be prepared for burial. It would seem as if the entire world revolved around Yisroel Ber. His mother was about to be buried after dying in grief over him. Thoughts of guilt and doubt came over him. People said that he had "killed" his mother. All this bitterness, for what? For a few new Jewish concepts? For a few new books? For a new Rabbi? Was this not too high a price to pay? So much suffering and sacrifice and so much hard work, all in order to cause his mother's death? The dilemma, the secret and painful insinuations of his wounded conscience, the questions, the regrets, "If only I had done differently." All these thoughts spun around in the mind and heart of Yisroel Ber. And above all the public desecration of the good name of Breslov.
On the verge of succumbing to these tormenting doubts, Yisroel Ber strengthened his resolve to believe fully in God and in Rebbe Nachman. His teacher, Rabbi Yisroel Karduner, felt and understood his student's decision. Then he began to pray like one of the Thirty-Six Hidden Tzaddikim who support the World, which he could do, with tears from the depths of his heart and soul. Not far away was the Burial Society, with a different type of weeping, and other forms of pain, and the remorse of the relatives.
And then the miracle occurred. Yisroel Ber's "dead" mother began to move! People were amazed. They checked her, and there was no doubt that she was coming back to life, thanks to the prayers of Rabbi Yisroel Karduner. Yisroel Ber breathed a deep sigh of relief. He thought that he would fall completely, but God had mercy on him. His convictions did not change, but he had undergone a terrible test. Coming near to Rebbe Nachman in truth was a test greater than the Binding of Isaac (when Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his only son). In attaching himself to Rebbe Nachman, source of all the souls in the world, Yisroel Ber did not yet realize that he was bringing the entire world to its Final Redemption (the Messianic Era).
HIS SUFFERING: TO BECOME THE TZADDIK
Despite all of his suffering and obstacles, Yisroel Ber was fully commited to the path of Breslov. On the mountains around Tiberias he continued his method of hitbodedut. He arose every night at Chatzot (midnight). Neither the darkness, nor the cold of winter, prevented him from immersing in the waters of the Sea of Galilee. A free mikveh (immersion pool) for the impoverished Yeshiva student! He prayed, he danced, he studied, he conversed with his Creator in hitbodedut, he climbed from level to level. He constantly progressed in his Divine service. His serenity and joy, even despite his suffering, amazed everyone around him. But soon there would be a new downfall. The mistake on the Seventeenth of Tammuz, in the early morning, when Yisroel Ber forgot that it was a Fast Day and ate. He blamed himself for his weakness in coming to eat on the Fast Day, and he fell into despair. After all his triumphs in serving G*d, he stumbled in something so simple and basic. He cried in his corner. He desisted from eating for an entire week: a voluntary fast that he undertook to rectify his mistake. In the Yeshiva everyone thought that he had lost his mind. And then the miracle. From the utter essence of downfall and despair, to the utter essence of joy.
1922 : THE HOLY LETTER FROM HEAVEN
9 July 1922-23 Tammuz 5682-Yisroel Ber is 34 years old.
In a supernatural, miraculous manner, Rebbe Nachman, who left this world 112 years earlier (1810), writes and sends a letter to Yisroel Ber. The letter is one of encouragement, in which is written all the secrets of the Redemption, and also an amazing spiritual remedy: the signature of Rebbe Nachman, whose name appears in a completely new form, that is the New Song. The ten types of song of the Redemption that are alluded to in the Tikkuney Zohar. This is the absolute remedy for all the suffering and illnesses, both physical and spiritual, of our generation. It is the perfect concentrated spiritual message for our weak generation. The little vessel that contains much: Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman.
NA NA'H NA'HMA NA'HMAN MEOUMAN
After he received the Letter, Yisroel Ber returned to his Divine Service with even more motivation and even more concealment. No one recognized his greatness. No one could imagine the extraordinary spiritual level that he had reached.
HIS SECRET SERVICE OF GOD
Tiberias-Jerusalem-Tel Aviv-Jerusalem again. Yisroel Ber continues his spiritual ascent. Much effort, many tests, much study, and much prayer. Much help and kindness to others. Little sleep. His eldest daughter, Tzippora, testifies that every time she would rise at night she found her father awake in his Divine service. Yisroel Ber seeks out the friendship of the spiritual giants of his day. He looks, studies, and seeks the truth.
At an advanced age, already a widower, he lives in the Givat Sha'ul neighborhood of Jerusalem. The neighbors hear through their windows the melody of his beautify nighttime prayers. Close to 95 years old, he now was living in the Old Age Home in Ra'anana, near Tel Aviv, but he did not feel at home there. The staff prevented him from leaving at night to do hitbodedut. He is guarding a very heavy secret. But he waits longer and longer for the fulfillment of the promise in the Letter.
1983-84 : HIS SERVICE OF GOD IS REVEALED
Once an employee of the Israeli Income Tax Service entered the Old Age Home and got to know this elderly Jew with paiyot (side curls) and a white beard. Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser sharply asks him: "Do you want a part to play in the Redemption? Then bring me to the mikveh." The flash of understanding of this employee was to believe in the simple truth of Rabbi Yisroel Ber's statement and to bring him to the mikveh. Rabbi Yisroel Ber immersed 310 times, as he was accustomed to doing. Afterwards he spoke at length about the Letter. At the age of 95 he was embarking on a new beginning in his life.
Around him gather a small group of people who believ in the Letter and in Rabbi Yisroel Ber. Rabbi Yisroel Ber disdains to serve as a "Rabbi" to this group, and demands that all be connected as equals, in simple friendship, based on the dedication above all to the Truth. Each one can serve as the "Rabbi" of the other, for each one has a unique point of spiritual perspective that no one else has.
Rabbi Yisroel Ber travels a number of times to the United States and France. As a result of his visits a huge interest in Breslov was generated in these places, even amongst the most alienated Jews. The Letter entered the hearts of whoever heard about it. Books were published and distributed at no profit. Many new families made Aliyah and came to live in Eretz Yisroel. Many people return to G*d. Also many articles appear in the newspapers and broadcast interviews on television.
Rabbi Yisroel Ber begins to move around constantly, from house to house, from new friends to old friends. Based on the invitations of others to him, and based on his own implied suggestions. He travels to destinations in every direction in Eretz Yisroel, from east to west, from north to south. In all these places he scatters seeds of Faith and Truth. He refused to remain in any one location for much time for reasons that only he understood.
1994 : HIS LAST ROSH HASHANAH IN UMAN (TISHREY 5755, SEPTEMBER 1994)
Rabbi Yisroel Ber is 106. Even though he is elderly, and very fatigued and weakened with many ailments, and suffering from great pain, he boards the airplane and flies to Uman for Rosh Hashanah. His face radiate light that all can sense, despite his efforts to conceal his countenance with his hands. He says to one person in Uman: "Will you have a place for me in Jerusalem?" Few understand. Rabbi Yisroel Ber is very happy and requests that he be brought to the main Breslov shul in Uman during the prayers on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. He enters the large shul and starts to sing Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman, and immediately hundreds join in singing with him. Rabbi Yisroel Ber smiles, laughs, and leads the chanting repeating it over and over.
On the return to Jerusalem he makes a will concerning the money that he has collected for the purpose of printing and distributing the books of Rebbe Nachman. Many said that Rabbi Yisroel Ber helped them organize their private affairs, such as weddings, important decisions, advice concerning children's education, and other personal matters. And he, who was so hidden and modest, now makes a powerful declaration.
HIS LAST PRONOUNCEMENT
The tape recorder was moving, and Rabbi Yisroel Ber declared: "The whole world does not know who I am! I shall inform all of you! I am Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman!"
This awesome declaration no one understood at the time. It was stated, over and over again, with mirth and laughter from Rabbi Yisroel Ber. "All the world, and the whole Government, do not know who I am! Behold, I inform them who I am! I am Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman!" "Who is the Rebbe of the whole world? Rebbe Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman!" And he repeated these statements, without cease, dozens of times. He stated these things only a few days before his passing, and when we hear these words today they bring tears to our eyes. Rabbi Yisroel became the spiritual emanation of Rebbe Nachman, but we did not understood this. He was the emmisary of Rebbe Nachman in this world, as the Petek attests.
Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser, due to his hard work and his self-purification, became "the precious student" of Rebbe Nachman, his emmisary to complete all of his program for the rectification and perfection of this world. His vessel that merited to receive the awesome light and fire, meaning the wisdom and faith, of Rebbe Nachman. "And upon you I said / 'My fire will burn / Until the coming of the Messiah!' be strong and courageous" That means that Rebbe Nachman strengthened Rabbi Yisroel Ber by descending into him. "Be strong and courageous / in your service / Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman"
In Likutay Moharan it is written: "the True Leader is one who knows how to be merciful. And there is no merciful Leader apart from Moses. For he was the Leader of Israel, and he will lead them in the future. For what was, is what will be .The perfection of the soul is not just to be in the Upper World, but to reside in the Upper and Lower Worlds together .Meaning that one must leave after him in this world a son or a student in order that one's wisdom continue to illuminate those who reside in this world. For when one's wisdom remains below through a son or a student, then it is as though the person himself truly continues to exist in the lower world."
It is possible to conclude that the Tzaddik wishes to remain both Above in Heaven and below in this world, and to establish a residence after his passing in this world through a living student, literally in his body, who merits to serve as the Tzaddik's abode in this lower world. And even more, it appears that here Rebbe Nachman hints that he will continue his work in this world, even after his passing, through his student who merits to the above. This Lesson was the first thing that Rabbi Yisroel Karduner taught Rabbi Yisroel Ber when they first met in Tiberias so many years before.
And even more, it is written in Chayay Moharan 229 what Rabbi Nathan asked of Rebbe Nachman: "I asked him once about what we had heard from his holy mouth, that he thought he would live a long time and finish everything he desired to accomplish to rectify this world. Rebbe Nachman answered: 'Did you hear what he has asked? This question also is difficult for me.' Even so he said: 'I did not finish? I ALREADY HAVE FINISHED, AND I SHALL FINISH!' And also when he [Rebbe Nachman] travelled to Uman [six months before his passing] he spoke with me [Rabbi Nathan] concerning the idea that God always finishes. And to explain this would take a long time and much paper to elaborate. And the point is that when he [Rebbe Nachman] started to attract a following, he thought that he would complete the rectification of the world immediately. And he spoke much about this. But afterwards, due to our great sins, and the sins of the generation, and due to the great opposition of the Satan, who incited great controversy against him [Rebbe Nachman], through all this the world became confused, and Rebbe Nachman was not able to complete in his lifetime what he had wanted to finish. And even so he said that he had already finished and would finish. For after he returned from Lemberg he merited to find a new path and said new teachings through which his flame would never be exstinguished, as I heard that he said: 'MY FIRE WILL BURN UNTIL THE COMING OF THE MESSIAH' May it be speedily in our days, Amen!"
18 CHESHVAN 5755 (23 October 1994)
Rabbi Yisroel Ber leaves us, as he had hinted to us. He left this world. Until the last moment he suffered greatly as an atonement for the whole generation. On the 30th day after his passing, when his family and followers gathered to say Kaddish (the mourner's prayer) at his grave, ashes fell from the sky onto those who were there. It was a rainy day. On top of the mountain, a hundred meters away from where Rabbi Yisroel rested, a huge Cypress tree went up in flames, for no apparent reason. The pillar of fire went up to Heaven, while the ashes were carried by the wind and fell on all those who were standing at Rabbi Yisroel Ber's grave. (There is a photograph in our possesion that bears witness to this.)
In Likutay Moharan II:67 is written: "When the holy luminaries (the True Tzaddikim) pass from the world then fires break out in the world, God spare us."
RABBI YISROEL BER
The Paragon of Divine Service
Rabbi Yisroel Ber with his sincere service of God made himself a living example of a true servant of God. One who has Faith always gains advantage over one who relies on his cleverness. The strength of his prayer, the constancy of his learning, his Fear of God, his simplicity and sincerity, and especially his humility. His distance from falsehood, from controversy, and from the charm of falsehood. His love for others. A person who feels the pain of another. Always prepared to help, to listen, to give of his precious time, to pray for those who ask. He was very sensitive and tactful, since he was able to place himself in the other's position. His face radiated the Divine Presence.
Against Fame and Publicity
Whereas many other teachers would assemble a prestigious audience in order to gain fame and influence and would do anything in order to draw attention and honor to themselves, Rabbi Yisroel Ber made himself small and acted as though he did not know anything. Once on Passover, at a Seder with others, Rabbi Yisroel asked simple questions that even a child would know in order to conceal himself from the others. Once, invited to say a blessing under the wedding canapy, Rabbi Yisroel pretended to forget the blessing and requested that the officiating Rabbi help him recite the blessing word for word. Many people did not come to him to request his blessing for they did not understand who he really was: a unique Tzaddik without peer. He always fled from honor and from places of prestige. He always sought out anonymity. Even more, he would intentionally act in a manner to confuse those around him so they would not be able to perceive who he really was.
When he lived in Tiberias, in the main synagogue people would nod politely as they listened to the Rabbi's sermon in order to gain favor in the Rabbi's eyes. Rabbi Yisroel lacked even the barest minimum that he required to support his family. Surely if he flattered the Rabbi like the others, he could gain some sort of advantage or support for himself and his family. But he remained unmoved and uncompromising. His face did not register any false flattery to the Rabbi. People asked him why he did not act with cunning in order to help his starving family. He answered that he was not prepared to eat bread of falsehood for any price. He always endeavored to distance himself from relatives and students whom he felt had unlterior motives and did not want to seek Truth above all. Rabbi Yisroel Ber was the embodiment of Truth.
Distant from the World
He was distant from all normal worldly obligations. He had no material desires. He was very distant from the evil of money. Once a contributor, who saw Rabbi Yisroel wandering (as a guest) from house to house, gave him a sum of money on condition that he would use it in order to procure for himself an abode. It really is difficult for an elderly man to have to wander constantly from one place to another. Sometimes he would be missing his possessions, that would be scattered amongst different locations. Rabbi Yisroel took the money and said: "This money you have given to me, correct? It is mine. So it will be for printing the books of Rabbi Nachman." And he continued to wander in his voluntary exile. He fled from power and control over others. He was distant from all the pleasures of this world. He always dressed simply and ate the smallest amount.
Like a chariot that has no desire of its own, but only does the will of its driver, so did Rabbi Yisroel completely nullify his ego. He would give himself over completely to the Will of God. He relied totally on prayer, and never sought to impose his own will on the situation. Never commanding or manipulating. His commitment to this path was such that he never requested anything explicitly from anyone. He spoke only to God through prayer and then waited to see how events would evolve. Even if he was in great need of something, he waited until someone else would offer him. He relied only on God. He did not want to alter the path that God decreed. He did not want to question the ways of God. He always had complete trust in God, in both the greatest and smallest issues. At the end of his life he did not tell anyone where he wanted to be buried, and not how, and not with whom. He threw himself until the last moment onto the Master of the World. He was a treasurehouse of trust in God and true Faith.
The Example of Joy
No one ever heard Rabbi Yisroel complain. He could be suffering physically or mentally, exhausted; yet he remained all the time in joy and a positive emotional state, whatever the situation. He would accept his portion and rejoice in it. He fulfilled with perfection Rebbe Nachman's statement: "It is a great obligation always to be joyous."
His Link to Rebbe Nachman
Rebbe Nachman had Rabbi Nathan as his main disciple and scribe. His student was Rabbi Moshe Breslover. And his main student was Rabbi Yisroel Karduner, who made Rabbi Yisroel Ber as his main student. But above all Rabbi Yisroel Ber became "the precious student" of Rebbe Nachman himself directly, as the Letter from Heaven testifies.
A Giant in Kabbalah (esoteric wisdom of the Torah)
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, renowned as the supreme halachic authority of our generation, met with Rabbi Yisroel Ber in New York in 1984. They learned together from Likutay Moharan, Rebbe Nachman's masterwork, concerning the "attractive" power of the Tzaddik, who nullifies himself like the dust of the earth in order to draw the whole world back to God via his teachings. At the end of the meeting Rabbi Feinstein requested that Rabbi Yisroel bless him. Rabbi Feinstein bowed his head and asked Rabbi Yisroel to bless him. Rabbi Feinstein, who at that time was very ill, lived for another two years and merited to have the greatest funeral procession in the history of the State of Israel, when he was escorted to his burial on Shushan Purim by some 300,000 people. Rabbi Feinstein wrote about Rabbi Yisroel Ber that "he is a Genius in Kabalah" and that he had "seen a secret letter in Rabbi Yisroel Ber's possession, a very wondrous thing." At the end of his life Rabbi Yisroel Ber said to a number of his relatives and followers that no one in the generation knows as much about the Redemption as he himself knows.
Rabbi Yisroel Ber never wanted people to think that he was a famous Rabbinic leader or a Tzaddik. He would say that he was a simple person. He would do all sorts of things in order to conceal the fact that he was helping others.
of his blessings
would be fulfilled, but he attributed this to the power of Rebbe Nachman. Once when he was staying with a young couple without children in Jerusalem, he did what he had to do to help them. But he left in the midst of an argument with them, and when he departed he told them unpleasant things. The couple were angry with him and separated from him. Afterwards they were blessed with a daughter, but it took them a long time to understand that Rabbi Yisroel's apparent anger towards them was only a pretext in order to conceal the power of his blessing. Another time Rabbi Yisroel Ber went to stay with a childless couple in Tzefat. He stayed with them a number of times. Once when he wanted to leave them, the wife told him with holy determination that she would not let him leave them. She would agree to let him leave only on condition that Rabbi Yisroel Ber decreed that Heaven grant them a son within a year. Rabbi Yisroel demurred and said that he was not a Tzaddik and that he does not have the power to decree such a thing, that he is only a simple person. But the wife stubbornly insisted for a long time. In the end Rabbi Yisroel Ber said: "If what you say is really true, that I am a Tzaddik, then I decree that you will have a son this year!" The same year she gave birth to a son .
prophetic power is revealed in the following statement from Rabbi Yisroel
"Before someone knocks on my door, Heaven reveals to me what they will ask of me and what they will say to me." There are many examples of this. His interaction with people would change dramatically depending on the situation of the person visiting him. If the subject of discussion concerned sacrifice for Israel or for some act of kindness, Rabbi Yisroel would show a warm and friendly countenance to the person. If the question was unclear, or the person speaking with him was even slightly arrogant, Rabbi Yisroel would withdraw and refuse to speak with him.
His help in giving birth is seen in many examples. Some people would come to tell Rabbi Yisroel that their wives had begun their labor, and they would give birth as soon as Rabbi Yisroel was informed of this. Many difficult and painful births ended happily in the merit of Rabbi Yisroel Ber's blessing. In Likutay Etzot is written: "One who has real trust in God, holds the key to giving birth."
Healing the sick was demonstrated in his ability to intervene and nullify grave and terrible illnesses and to bring about complete recoveries.
Even when he was deep in holy thoughts, or studying, or reciting Psaslms, if someone would come to speak with him he would close his book and devote his full attention to the one who had come to speak with him. One who spilled out to Rabbi Yisroel Ber his pain, his questions, his problems, his worries and his fears, he would leave Rabbi Yisroel feeling that his problems had been alleviated. Rabbi Yisroel Ber felt the pains of another person as though they were his own. The would leave him feeling completely recharged. Rabbi Yisroel Ber for his part would require some time to overcome the pain that he would feel from the other person. He would personally experience all the emotional and physical pain that the person felt. Many times people would come to awaken him in the middle of the night. He never criticized those who did this and he never showed any anger. His door was open to everyone 24 hours a day. People who saw him even for the first time felt such love and closeness to him that they would relate to him like one of their closest family members. They called him "Saba," meaning Grandfather. Even when he was tired and suffering from terrible pains, he would give of himself completely to whoever needed his help.
THE TZADDIK : FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD
Rabbi Yisroel Ber became "the precious student" of Rebbe Nachman. He merited to receive the reinforcing power of Rebbe Nachman. He merited to receive within himself the soul of Rebbe Nachman, until he himself became the Tzaddik Foundation of the World, the Tzaddik upon whom all the world rests and in whose merit it can exist.
To distribute the books and the light of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, an indispensible condition for bringing the Messianic Redemption.
To reveal, to divulge, to publicize the New Song, made of the Ten Types of Song, that can heal the entire world from all its pains. To inform people about the Petek.
To bring the Messiah and to unify the collective soul of the Tzaddik (the soul of the Tzaddik is the source of all the souls, the aspect of Moses, meaning Rebbe Nachman and the People of Israel).
In two words: to make souls and to make books.
Despite the fact that most of his actions were completely hidden from us, we could see a little bit of how he repaired souls, mitigated harsh judgements, nullified harsh spiritual decrees, reparation of the souls of the dead, drawing near the souls, and the mystery of Rosh Hashanah. Here are a few examples of what he did.
The Light of the Tzaddik
To encourage studying the teachings of Rebbe Nachman and to fulfill his teachings.
To give to each person the yearning to come near to the True Tzaddik. His words are a soothing balm that heal the tired and wounded souls of our generation. His advice and his instructions are the main source of help for each and every one of us. They bring a person to joy and serenity and help each person to fulfill his life potential. Drawing near to the Tzaddik guarantees that each and every person will be directed towards the specific and precise purpose for which he came into the world. Rabbi Yisroel Ber wanted to bring to each person the possibility to love Rebbe Nachman.
Rabbi Yisroel Ber prefered deep and sincere repentance more than dramatic but superficial actions. He would say: "There is repentance, and there is repentance." He also endeavored to draw near famous people who themselves had potential to bring many new souls to the Tzaddik. However he also would apply the same devotion and effort to drawing near simple people as well. He brought into Breslov the President of Israel, Zalman Shazar, who published the letters that he had received from Rabbi Yisroel Ber over a 17 year period. This book is very well-known and is called "Ibay HaNachal." It became a best-seller in Israel and has reached tens of thousands of homes. Also Martin Buber, a famous writer and intellectual throughout the world. Also Shai Agnon, award winning Israeli author. Many of the current leaders of the Breslov movement today came into Breslov because of their contact with Rabbi Yisroel, who would encourage them in countless ways. And hundreds of other people are today what they are in Rabbi Yisroel's merit. Intellectual or commoner, religious or secular, Chassidim or Lita'im, all merited Rabbi Yisroel's attention. If only they would listen to the true words of the Tzaddik and take them to heart.
Encouraging Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael
Who more than Rebbe Nachman wrote, spoke, praised, and publicized the greatness of living in Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel)? Also Rabbi Yisroel encouraged people greatly to move to Eretz Yisroel. He would praise greatly the earth, the sky, and the special fruits of the Land. Many many people came to live here in his merit. ("Eretz Yisroel is the perfection of all forms of holiness." From Likutay Etzot)
This is crucial support for achieving the goal of disseminating the message of Rebbe Nachman. The books are an inseparable part of Rebbe Nachman's message to the world.
"When a new book is published the tears that are expended to accomplish this nullify all the harsh decrees of the nations of the world against us."
"When a book is published people who are childless can give birth."
Shortly before his death, Rabbi Nathan perceived that, in the future, many books of heresy would come into the world that would be full of words distant from God and from the True Faith. But he said: "one page of Rebbe Nachman's books would rectify everything."
"In every teaching that I impart one can find there all of the Torah and all the Prophets and Holy Writings and all of the Oral Tradition." (Sichot HaRan 201)
Rabbi Yisroel, despite being poor, published a collection of prayers from Likutay Tefillot (the book of prayers authored by Rabbi Nathan), and at the end his life he published in one volume the abridged teachings of Rebbe Nachman (Likutay Moharan) with their accompanying prayers from Likutay Tefillot. This book is called "Kitvay Rebbe Nachman". He instigated many groups that publish and publicize the teachings of Rebbe Nachman. They travel over every square centimeter of Eretz Yisroel selling Rebbe Nachman's books at cost, without any profit, and distribute stickers with the New Song Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman. They dance in town squares throughout the Land and convey the message of Rebbe Nachman with joy and exuberance.
THE HOLY LETTER FROM HEAVEN
The Letter that Rebbe Nachman sent to Rabbi Yisroel Ber on 23 Tammuz 5682 (9 July 1922), in a miraculous manner, 112 years after his passing, contains many secrets that have not yet been revealed. It speaks about the Redemption, and it brings the remedy for what each and every person needs: the famous and well-down spiritual remedy, that is tested and proven. It is good to say and to sing all the time, and especially when one needs salvation: Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman. This is the name of the Tzaddik, Rebbe Nachman, written in a sublime Kabbalistic format that parallels God's ineffable Holy Name.
The Circumstances :
· No one knew that Yisroel Ber ate early in the morning of the Fast Day, the Seventeenth of Tammuz. And in the Petek is written: "And the sign is / On 17 Tammuz they will say that you will not fast."
· Yisroel Ber found the Petek in his private bookcase that was locked at all times. He was the only one with a key.
The Investigation :
· Rabbi Motty of Slonim, head of the Slonimer Chassidic Movement, was known as a serious and non-frivolous person. Everyone in Tiberias feared him, and he was known for never laughing. He began to shake with great and long laughter when Yisroel Ber explained to him that he had received a Petek from Rebbe Nachman. Rabbi Motty loved Yisroel Ber deeply and would learn with him. He summoned all of his Chassidim and examined them, until no one was left in all of Tiberias who would admit to having written the Petek. His Chassidim depended upon him for many things, and no one would have dared to conceal the truth from him. Yet he found no one who admitted responsibility. For this reason he summoned the entire Slonim community of Tiberias and said that, because of the miracle of the Petek, he was dropping his opposition to Breslov Chassidus.
· Closer to our own time, in the early 1980s, Chana Koren, a famous Israel graphologist at the University of Haifa, examined the Petek for one month. She concluded that at least one of the words was in the original handwriting of Rebbe Nachman himself. There are samples of Rebbe Nachman's handwriting that correspond to the style of writing in that word of the Petek. (The other words of the Petek are written in a script that is not normally used in handwriting, and she had no examples of similar script in the original handwriting of Rebbe Nachman with which to compare.) She also confirmed that the writing of the Petek suggested that the author suffered from tuberculosis, and it is known that Rebbe Nachman suffered from this illness.
· The paper of the Petek was examined in a Police laboratory. It was determined to be 60 years old, dating back to the year in which Rabbi Yisroel Ber received the Petek.
· Rabbi Yitzchak Breiter, one of the leaders of Breslov in Poland before World War Two, received the Petek from Rabbi Yisroel for examination. He said that the Petek was a great miracle in the darkness of the generation.
· Rabbi Shlomo Wechsler, leader of Breslov in Jerusalem, was known as a Scholar and Tzaddik, an expert in the secrets of the Torah. He was friends with Rabbi Yisroel Ber, and said about the Petek: "This is a very wondrous thing And just on the first Nun of the line with Na Nach it is possible to write pages of Kabbalistic interpretation.
· Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the greatest halachic authority of our generation: "I saw a secret document in his possession, something very wondrous."
· Rabbi Levi Nachmani, a noted Kabbalist, visited Rabbi Yisroel Ber a number of times, examined the Petek, and said to him that he would live until 106 years.
Other examples of Letters from Heaven that are recorded in the Holy Books:
· Gemara Yoma 69: "A Letter fell to them from Heaven, and it was written in it: Truth."
· Gemara Baba Metzia 86: At the death of Rabba bar Nachmani a Petek fell from Heaven to explain to them how to bury him and how to mourn for him. Two more Letters fell from Heaven for the same reason.
· Mishna Berura 51:1: The prayer "Baruch She'amar" in the morning prayers was established because of a Petek that fell from Heaven, upon which were written the words of the prayer.
Richness of Its Contents :
Many explanations, books, and gematriot (numerology) have been written about the Petek, and even more about the signature (Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman) which is the main thing. As an example:
· Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman = 354 in gematria (the Ten types of Song)
· SIMCHA (Joy) + 1(the number of inclusion) = 354
354 + 4 (the number of words in the signature) = 358 = Moshiach (Messiah)
Rabbi Nathan explains that the Ten types of Song are synonomous with joy, as suggested above by the gematriot.
The Proven Remedy :
Even without delving too deeply into the Petek, the test that many have done is to say the signature Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman and to wait to see the results. Many amazing stories have been publicized about the effects of this remedy. The only condition is to say it with faith (and not mockery).
The Ten Songs:
The Ten Songs are the secret the guarantees the Final Redemption of all humanity. The Ten Songs are as significant as the Ten Utterances with which God created the world (Genesis). They have the power to transform everything. And just as the Ten Utterances transformed the pre-Creation void into the entire Universe, so too do the Ten Songs transform evil to good, blemishes to virtues, illness to health, this world to the Next. The Ten Songs clarify the true faith in God from the many false faiths. They extract the lies and heresy from a person's heart. All humanity has fallen into the bottomless pit of defilement, especially because of sexual immorality. And because of this there is depression, sadness, despair, and all sorts of illnesses. The cure depends on one thing: joy. And the Ten Songs are synonomous with joy. Only one Tzaddik has the strength to cure the ten types of poisons that the Jewish People suffer from. (See the Tale of the Seven Beggars, Day Six). The ten Hebrew letters in Rebbe Nachman's name as it appears in the Petek: Na Nach Nachma Nachman corespond to the ten types of Song that have the power to cure all of Israel. Thousands of years had to pass from the Creation of the world to reveal this remedy to our generation, close to the Coming of the Messiah.
QUOTES FROM RABBI YISROEL BER
· The Faith is the foundation of everything.
· Just to say simply the name "Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman" mitigates all the pains, all the harsh judgements, all the sins, all the heresy .everything.
· This Song transforms everything. Happy is one who believes.
· How was the Petek written? How did it reach Tiberias? How did it enter the Yeshiva and the locked bookcase? It is obvious that everything about it is miraculous.
· Rebbe Nachman is the Song. But here in the Petek he reveals it to the entire world.
· Na Nach is the New Song through which all Israel will be redeemed.
· Na Nach is the root of the Creation, of the Torah, and of all the Tzaddikim.
· In the merit of the Song Na Nach all the harsh judgements are mitigated and everything is transformed for the good.
· One who merits to say and to sing with complete Faith the Song Na Nach will see wonders and great salvations.
· This Song pertains to the Messianic Redemption.
· Once Rabbi Yisroel was injured on his leg and the wound became infected. His life was in danger from the gravity of the injury. He was ordered not to immerse in a mikveh. At that time the water of the mikveh was not chlorinated, nor was it changed frequently, meaning that this water was not particularly clean. The infection in Rabbi Yisroel's leg got worse and even exuded a bad smell. But Rabbi Yisroel refused to listen to the doctors orders, and he ocntinued to immerse in the mikveh and to spend a long time immersing and praying beneath the water until his leg was completely cured.
· Rabbi Yisroel was a close friend with the President of Israel, Zalman Shazar. Even when he had nothing and was in dire straits, he never asked the President for anything for himself. The only things that he asked of him were:
His help in procuring building materials to construct the new Breslov Shul
in Jerusalem (Me'a She'arim neighborhood). These materials were, at that time,
difficult to obtain since they were prioritized for the Israeli army.
(2) His intervention on behalf of a number of Breslov Chassidim who had been caught trying to travel to Rebbe Nachman's grave in Uman (at that time in the Soviet Union) on false passports. This was at a time when the Soviet Union refused to grant diplomatic relations to Israel, and it otherwise was impossible for an Israeli citizen to travel there and to reach Rebbe Nachman's grave.
Rabbi Yisroel Ber, as a young man, always sought to become close to the greatest
Sages and Tzaddikim of his time, until he merited to become the personal attendant
of Rabbi Alfandri, who had been the leading Sefardic Sage of the Jewish community
in Constantinople (Istanbul) in Turkey during the previous generation and
who now was residing in Tiberias. Rabbi Alfandri was a giant in every sphere
of the Torah. He also was an extraordinary Elder, at that time already over
100 years. Rabbi Yisroel would bring him food and drink, help him with his
clothing and other personal details, and would attend to his every need. Once
Rabbi Alfandri heard Rabbi Yisroel Ber reciting the Midnight Lament (without
Rabbi Yisroel Ber's awareness). Rabbi Alfandri was shocked and awestruck to
hear the prayers of Rabbi Yisroel Ber. The next day he called Rabbi Yisroel
and said to him: "You cannot be my attendant any more. I ought to be
your attendant!" And from that time on they were like friends and colleagues,
Rabbi Alfandri over 100 years old and the leading Sage of Sefardic world Jewry
and Rabbi Yisroel, who at that time was barely 30 years old.
· In the Old Age Home in Ra'anana once a young man came to visit Rabbi Yisroel. He had serious psychological problems. Rabbi Yisroel welcomed him into his room. At night the young man would sleep on a matress in the room. Slowly and gradually all of his problems began to disappear until he became completley cured. Someone asked Rabbi Yisroel how he was able to cure this young man from his terrible condition. Rabbi Yisroel answered that he had prayed with interruption until the spirit of defilement departed from the young man.
Once when he was in America, Rabbi Yisroel was visited by a person who was
blind and extremely homely. His face was covered with a large wine stained
mark. His lips protruded monstrously. It was very difficult to look at this
poor soul. He was so ugly that people said that he was fortunate to be blind
so that he would not have to look at himself. Otherwise he would not have
been able to bear his own appearance. He heard about Rabbi Yisroel and the
Petek. He came to request a blessing
. to get married! Rabbi Yisroel
said that if he would bring him a generous sum of money for Tzedakah (called
a "Pidyon") he would then be able to find someone to marry. This
money would be used to print Breslov books, and in its merit Rabbi Yisroel
promised him a wedding! The younger man had come to Rabbi Yisroel accompanied
by a Rabbi. The Rabbi was so incredulous to hear this promise from Rabbi Yisroel,
that he promised to give Rabbi Yisroel double the Pidyon if the young man
really managed to get married. The young man gave over the Pidyon to Rabbi
Yisroel, but after a few days he said that he regretted his decision and asked
Rabbi Yisroel to return the money to him. Rabbi Yisroel refused to do this,
as this would endanger the life of the young man. The situation remained like
this. Rabbi Yisroel returned to Eretz Yisroel, and a number of months passed.
One night someone knocked on the door of Rabbi Yisroel, who at that time was
living in Benei Berak, a religious city near Tel Aviv. He carried an urgent
message for Rabbi Yisroel and wanted to see him immediately. This was the
Rabbi who had accompanied the homely young man to see Rabbi Yisroel many months
previously. He had arrived specially from America in order to fulfill his
promise and to pay the double-Pidyon to Rabbi Yisroel. The young man in truth
had met a beautiful young woman who had fallen in love with him and they had
married, just as Rabbi Yisroel had promised!
· Once on Purim Rabbi Yisroel was at home, seated across from a man who was supported on each side by another person. Years before this man had pursued and harrassed Rabbi Yisroel and caused him much anguish. The man stood there and repeatedly sighed and moaned in front of Rabbi Yisroel. Rabbi Yisroel asked him: "What are you doing here?" Rabbi Yisroel knew that this man already had been dead for some time. Rabbi Yisroel said that he pardoned the man, and the three "men" left the room. Rabbi Yisroel explained afterwards that the man had in fact been escorted from the Next World by two avenging angels, and had returned to seek rectification and pardon for all his evil deeds against Rabbi Yisroel. Rabbi Yisroel later said that he felt sorrow that the man had to "return" and that he had to see all this on Purim (the Jewish Holiday of feasting and rejoicing).
· Once Rabbi Yisroel was confined to a wheelchair and very elderly. He was in Meron for some time in the home of one of his followers. He took him aside and said to him: "You should lock me in the room. No one needs toknow where I am. Whatever you will see, don't worry and don't be afraid. Don't call any doctor. Don't tell anyone, no matter what will happen." Rabbi Yisroel entered a long period of fasting. He was very weak, and began to vomit up blood. This was horrible, worrying, and terrifying. Although the situation was bad and the follower was very worried that Rabbi Yisroel might die, still he fulfilled his promise and did not tell anyone or summon any doctor. He kept his worry to himself. After some time, Rabbi Yisroel asked for something to drink and to eat. Who knows what Rabbi Yisroel had wanted to rectify through this mortification! Who knows what disaster he had saved the Jewish People from through his terrible suffering! This story became known only after Rabbi Yiroel's passing .
Rabbi Yisroel Ber merited that the Final Redemption will be through him. It depends on spreading the New Song, the Petek, and the books of Rebbe Nachman throughout the world. In the merit of the secret of the Ten Songs, the Messiah will come speedily in our days, Amen!
BRESLOVER CHASSID IS BORN:
STORY OF THE HISKARVUS
(relates Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser)
In this section [says Rabbi Yisroel Odesser] I want to relate just a few stories that demonstrate the greatness of Rebbe Nachman, as seen through my teacher, Rabbi Yisroel Karduner, of blessed memory, one of the giants of Breslov Chassidus in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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, as waters cover the sea." [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 Kabbalah*. I always would 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 ran off with it.
Since I already knew the book by heart, I continued with its teachings unhampered. Now that I had 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 Rabbi Avraham Kalisker and Rabbi 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 already was engaged at the time.) But my mother opposed him, saying that I still was 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 already had 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 already was 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 to 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 that 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 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 all were 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.
However, I 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.
LETTER FROM HEAVEN:
MIRACLE OF THE PETEK
(relates Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser)
In the year 5682 (1922), on the Seventeenth of Tammuz, I felt a terrible weakness. 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.