Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Another Tzaddik Leaves This World: ha-Rav ha-Gaon Moshe Halberstam, ztzvk"l

Ha-Shem Yisborach, the Dayan ha-Emes, has blessed Klal Yisroel with yet another kappara and returned the soul of ha-Rav ha-Gaon Rabbi Moshe Halberstam, ztzvk'l, back to the yeshivah shel maaleh.

Rav Halberstam, one of the world's foremost poskim and a great friend to Breslov, was a Dayan on the Beis Din Tzedek and the head of Hatzala Yerushalayim.

The Rav passed away today, at around 12:00 pm Israel-time, at the Bikur Cholim hospital after being admitted for chest pains and shortness of breath. He was 74 years old.

The Rav's passing is particularly painful for me personally. Besides receiving semichos from Rav Halberstam, I had maintained a relationship with him for the past few years. The Rav was nothing short of a true Gadol. Apart from his tremendous Torah learning, and indescribable Yiras HaShem, the Rav also embodied the midda of tzidkus, righteousness.

We should all be stunned and awed by the loss of two of Yisroel's greatest lights in a mere two days. We are all mechuyav to search our deeds and ask: What have we done?

Such a kappara!

Yet this is the will of the True Judge, boruch Hu.

We should all merit teshuvah sheleima and geulah sheleima, bimehera be-yamenu.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Passing of the Satmar Rebbe, The Holy Grand Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, ztvk"l

With heavy heart and great sadness we report the passing of the great tzaddik ve-kadosh, ha-Admo"r mi-Satmar, Grand Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, zikaron tzaddik va-kadosh li-vrakhah.

The Rebbe's holy neshoma was returned to it's maker yesterday, 26th of Nissan.

The Rebbe had been undergoing treatments for spinal cancer and other medical ailments at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital since March 30th.

The Rebbe, as his predecessor, was interred in the Kiryas Yoel Beis Kevaros.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Parsha Post: Tazria-Metzora Divre Torah from Breslov

Starting next week Haside Breslov Online's weekly parsha posting will be expanded. Along with links to on-line divre Torah, we will also include a list of sources for parsha learning in the Breslov seforim. Please check back next week for our new expanded Parsha Posts.

Also, note that there are some brand-new photos added to the gallery - remember to take a look!

Divre Torah for Tazria-Metzora:

http://www.breslov.org/dvar/vayikra/tazria-metzora_5761b.html

http://www.breslovworld.com//DynamicArtical.aspx?linknumber=985

http://www.breslov.org/dvar/vayikra/tazria_5756.htm

http://www.breslovworld.com//DynamicArtical.aspx?linknumber=986

http://www.breslov.org/dvar/vayikra/tazria-m_5758.htm

http://www.breslov.org/dvar/vayikra/tazria-metzora_5762.html

http://www.breslovworld.com//DynamicArtical.aspx?linknumber=987

http://www.breslov.org/dvar/vayikra/tazria-metzora_5761a.html

Friday, April 21, 2006

University Professor Translating, Publishing the Megillas Sesarim

From Haaretz, Tueday April 18, 2006 (Nisan 20 5766):


The Messiah Code
By Micha Odenheimer

For 200 years, a mysterious manuscript dictated by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav to his two closest disciples has been a closely guarded secret within Bratslav Hasidism. Encoded in abbreviations, hints and acronyms, Bratslav tradition says that only one person in each generation has been handed the key to the manuscript's true meaning. Called the Megilat Setarim, the scroll of secrets, the manuscript's subject and theme is nothing less than the ultimate Jewish enigma and one of Judaism's paramount obsessions: the nature and identity of the Messiah - and even perhaps the exact timing of his arrival.

But secrets have a way of emerging from obscurity in the postmodern era. Within the next few months, the manuscript, its code at least partially deciphered by Dr. Zvi Mark, 43, a scholar of Hasidism who teaches at Bar-Ilan University and is a researcher at the Shalom Hartman Institute, will be published by Bar-Ilan University Press. While some Bratslaver Hasidim oppose its publication, Mark, to his surprise, has had the cooperation and quiet encouragement of some prominent Bratslav Hasidim in acquiring and interpreting the secret manuscript.

"The world is thirsty for the words of our Master," one Bratslav scholar told Mark - hinting that the immense popularity Rabbi Nachman's path has attained during the last decade may signal that the time for hiding is over. "Our master, Rabbi Nachman, told us not to make it public, so we, as Bratslav Hasidim, cannot," another prominent leader said. "But apparently in the heavens, it has been determined that it is already the time for revelation."

Rabbi Nachman, whose teachings are widely considered among the most profound, original and poetic of any in the Jewish tradition, believed he was blazing a new path in Judaism, and he saw this path in a messianic context: "My fire," he is quoted as having said, "will burn until the coming of the Messiah." At the time of the birth of his son Shlomo Efraim, Rabbi Nachman apparently believed that the coming of the Messiah was imminent and that his infant son might fill the role of the redeemer, or would at least play a role in the drama of redemption. After his son died, at the age of one year and two months, Rebbe Nachman told his close followers that he had known, up until now, the exact date the Messiah was set to appear, but that now the Messiah's advent had been postponed by at least a hundred years.

A few months later, on the fifth of Av in 1806, Rebbe Nachman revealed the prophecy, or "vision" encoded in the Megilat Setarim. In his posthumously published memoirs, Rabbi Natan of Nemerov, Rebbe Nachman's most devoted and important disciple, describes hearing the teachings recorded in the Megilat Setarim during a carriage ride between Medvedivka and Tzherin, two cities in Ukraine. As Rabbi Natan and another close disciple, Rabbi Naftali, listened in rapt attention, Rabbi Nachman began to speak of the coming of the Messiah. Several other men were present as well, including one of Rebbe Nachman's sons in law, but strangely, they could afterward not recall more than a few words of what their master had said.

For over two hours, Rabbi Nachman spoke about "The entire order of the coming of the righteous redeemer ... matters which had never been heard before in the world at all." Much of what Rabbi Nachman said, Rabbi Natan writes in his memoirs, was forgotten by the two men immediately. But Rabbi Natan did manage to write down "in hints, in acronyms and abbreviations" much of the substance of his master's prophetic words.

According to Rebbe Natan, Rebbe Nachman did not link his vision to a specific time. "When will this all come about?" the two men asked their teacher. Rebbe Nachman answered obliquely, evasively: "Just the telling of these things is a very great thing", he said. "That we should be able to converse in this world about matters that until now were hidden away in chambers within chambers." Rabbi Nachman ordered the two men not to repeat what they had heard, not to copy the manuscript, even though it was written in code, and certainly not to publish it.

Three years later, in 1809, Rabbi Nachman repeated, to the same two men, essentially the same messianic vision he had articulated before. Again Reb Natan recorded his words. The two versions, recorded together on the same manuscript, are what came to be called Megilat Setarim, the scroll of secrets.


Lost and found

The plot continues to thicken after Rabbi Natan's death. In a note attached as an addendum to Rabbi Natan's words, the posthumous editor of Rabbi Natan's memoirs writes: "After Rabbi Natan's death ... the holy manuscript of Megilat Setarim was stolen and lost, and we still don't know where it is. Woe! What a shame for that which has been lost and is not to be found."

Yet the manuscript was not lost - the claim that it was may have been part of an effort to cover up its continued existence. According to the Siach Sarfay Kodesh, a six volume work of Bratslav oral history first published in the 1980s, the interpretation of the scroll was passed on before Rebbe Naftali's death - Rebbe Natan had died earlier - to Reb Aharon Libvezker, "a very holy man who was born on the knees of Rebbe Nachman."

Before he died, Reb Aharon Libvezker passed the secret on to Reb Avraham Hazan, the son of Reb Nakhman of Tolzhin, a close disciple of Rebbe Natan.

Hazan, also known as Reb Avraham b'Reb Nachman, is a legendary figure in Bratslav circles - and one of the two major conduits through which Bratslav Hasidism emerged out of Eastern Europe and reached Israel and beyond. Hazan, in many ways, fit the classic stereotype of the intense, ascetic and eccentric Bratslaver Hasid. According to Siach Sarfay Kodesh, Hazan was visited as he lay mortally ill in Uman (where Rabbi Nachman lived the last two years of his life and where he is buried) by Tzirel, the daughter of Reb Aharon Libvezker, who had bequeathed the Megilat Setarim code to Hazan. Tzirel screamed at Hazan, upbraiding him for not having transmitted his secret knowledge to the next generation, but it was too late. Hazan had already lost the power of speech and died, according to this account, without passing on the key to the code.

Yet the idea that Hazan was the last to know the true interpretation of the Megilat Setarim - or even that he was the only person in his generation who did know - may be another Bratslav attempt at protection and concealment. The scroll itself eventually reached Jerusalem in 1963, when it was entrusted to Rabbi Gedaliah Fleer, then 23, a Bratslav Hasid from Brooklyn, by Rabbi Michael Dorfman, a Bratslav Hasid living in Moscow. Fleer, with Dorfman's help, had braved the Soviet Union's fierce hostility to Judaism and their ban on religious pilgrimage, and had become the first Western Hasid to reach Uman in the postwar period.

Constantly threatened by the KGB, Dorfman and the handful of other Bratslav Hasidim who remained behind the Iron Curtain felt that their survival as a community was in grave danger. As Fleer was preparing to leave, Dorfman passed him a handwritten book which he feared the Soviets might some day seize. The book contained various esoteric Bratslav writings, including a manuscript handwritten by Reb Alter Tepliker, an important 19th century Bratslav figure, who said it had been "Copied letter by letter from Rabbi Natan's handwriting," and that it told "The whole order of the coming of the Righteous redeemer." The elusive Megilat Setarim had been found.

Fleer, as well as Dorfman, trace their spiritual lineage to the other major conduit through which Bratslav Hasidism reached the West - Reb Avraham Sternharz, who escaped the Soviet Union for Jerusalem in 1940, where he lived until his death in 1955. Now 66 years old and living in Jerusalem, Fleer told Haaretz that soon after reaching Jerusalem he had shown the manuscript to another disciple of Sternharz, Rebbe Hirsch Leib Lippel. Lippel teased Fleer with a question. "Do you know how to read it? I do."

Lippel told Fleer that Sternharz, considered by his disciples as at least as great an authority on Bratslav Hasidism as Avraham Hazan, and as a great-grandson of Rabbi Natan privy to intimate family traditions, had decoded the manuscript for him one winter night in Ukraine. "I asked Lippel to let me in on the secret," Fleer said, "but he claimed that he was old and sick and had forgotten everything." But that, too, proved to be camouflage. A few weeks later, Lippel changed his mind. "

'If God put the scroll in your hands,' Fleer says that Lippel told him, 'I guess he meant for you to know what it says.'" He invited Fleer and two other Bratslav Hasidim to his home that evening and read the manuscript through, forbidding the men to record or take notes. "Every one of the abbreviations and acronyms fit," Fleer says today. "He definitely knew the secret of how to read it." Fleer distributed photocopies of the encoded manuscript to several people within the Bratslav community, but kept judiciously silent about what the scroll actually said.

Fast forward to 30 years later, when a Bratslav Hasid let slip in a conversation with Zvi Mark, a graduate of religious Zionist yeshivot and an academic researcher of kabbala and Hebrew Literature, that he had seen a copy of the mysterious Megilat Setarim. Mark was intrigued, though he got no closer to the scroll through that Hasid. Earlier researchers into Bratslav Hasidism had mentioned esoteric writings that were in the possession of the elders of the Bratslav community. Two of them, Yosef Weiss and Yehuda Leibes, had posited that the writings, which included two stories - "Story of the Bread" and "Story of the Armor" told by Rabbi Nachman, along with the Megilat Setarim - had been suppressed because they were connected with Sabbateanism, the 17th century messianic movement whose aftershocks traumatized Judaism for decades and perhaps centuries.

"It is not that these researchers thought that Rebbe Nachman was a Sabbatean," Mark says, "but that in order to spiritually battle Sabbateanism he veered close to Sabbatean ideas, and this had to be kept secret." Part of Mark's interest in Bratslav's esoteric writings, besides his interest in the mystical and visionary side of Rebbe Nachman, has been his desire to prove that their concealment had nothing to do with Sabbateanism. "In the wake of Gershom Scholem, Sabbateanism became like the joker in a deck of cards," Mark says. "Whenever there was a mystery, the answer in academia was always 'Sabbateanism'."

Working partly as a detective, partly as an anthropologist, and partly as a scholar, Mark began to piece together and analyze esoteric Bratslav writings that were already beginning to emerge from concealment within the expanding borders of the Bratslav community itself. Since its inception, the community had consisted of a tiny, dedicated band harassed and persecuted by other Hasidic groups, not least because of their insistence on Rabbi Nachman's unique greatness.

But over the last decade, Bratslav has become more and more influential in Jewish religious circles. Thousands of Israeli baaley teshuva (newly religious) identify with Bratslav. The pilgrimage to Rebbe Nachman's grave in Uman every Rosh Hashanah has grown to massive proportions. Celebrities like Aryeh Deri have made the trip along with rabbis, kabbalists and entertainers with no previous allegiance to Bratslav.

New Bratslav groups, consisting mostly of the newly religious, have emerged, and some of them, challenging the authority of the Bratslav elders, had already begun to publish previously suppressed material, such as the "Story of the Bread" - which tells of Rebbe Nachman's experience of receiving the Torah into his own body and seeing the Ten Commandments emerge from his own mouth. The censored material, it seemed, was not about Sabbatai Zevi, but about Reb Nachman himself, and some within the Bratslav movement felt that in a world that had begun to recognize Rebbe Nachman's greatness there was no further need for concealment.

Mark eventually managed to obtain a copy of the Megilat Setarim itself, with the aid of David Asaf, a longtime scholar and bibliographer of Bratslav, and began the difficult work of decoding, aided by Bratslav friends. Mark has not succeeded in decoding every abbreviation in the scroll and admits there may be layers of the scroll that he has not managed to decipher, but he believes that he has a fairly complete picture of the scroll's content. For those expecting a wrathful Messiah who will wreak vengeance on the nations of the world - or a rabbinic Messiah with a white beard - the Messiah of the scroll will come as a disappointment.

Rebbe Nachman, on that carriage ride long ago, predicted, instead, a Messiah whose appearance and identity would surprise the world: a Messiah who would begin his messianic mission as a young child. The scroll describes the Messiah's marriage, and his ascension to the throne as emperor while a teenager. The Messiah, according to the scroll, will eventually conquer the world without firing a single shot: his war will be a spiritual battle with a tidal wave of atheism that will have engulfed the world.

Rabbi Nachman's messianic vision includes no apocalypse and no mass destruction of evildoers. The Messiah's power will emanate from his genius for healing illness through new kinds of medicines he will synthesize from various compounds, and from his profound originality in the field of music: The Messiah will compose melodies with the power to arouse tremendous yearning and hunger for God. Rabbi Nachman's Messiah is universal: He comes not just to the Jews, but to all nations, and for the good of the whole world.

Mark feels that the publication of the scroll, with its peaceful, universalist vision, may have a positive affect on groups such as the hillside youth for whom Rebbe Nachman is a profound influence.

Mark's decoding of the scroll corresponds, to a great extent, with what Gedaliah Fleer remembers of Reb Lippel's reading. Yet Fleer himself is not certain that the manuscript he brought back from Russia contains all of what was once called Megilat Setarim. "There may have been more", he says, "perhaps much more." Rabbi Moshe Binenstock, a student of Bratslav elder Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender, who was himself a disciple of Rabbi Avraham Hazan, insists that the exact date of the coming of the Messiah was once part of the secret tradition of the scroll - despite Rabbi Natan's question to Rabbi Nachman - but that the secret apparently died with Hazan. He remembers Hasidim teasingly begging Bender, who died at the age of 92 in 1989, to reveal the date, but Bender insisted that he did not know.

Binenstock also rejects the possibility that Rabbi Avraham Sternharz had himself received a transmission of the scroll's secrets. The scroll's meaning, completeness, and the possibility of its interpretation thus connect to other fault lines within Bratslav over the relative authority of Sternharz and Hazan, the two dominant 20th century Bratslav teachers.

Now that Zvi Mark has deciphered the basic text - which may or may not be all of what Bratslav tradition called Megilat Setarim - and written about its historical context and meaning, the possibility of searching for deeper layers of significance has also been opened. Mark has cracked the abbreviations - still, there are the hints and acronyms that Rabbi Natan mentioned, as well as questions of interpretation. Is the scroll talking about physical healing, for example, or spiritual healing? Are the compounds the Messiah combines made of molecules or letters?

Rabbi Nachman's words about himself, says Mark, may very possibly apply to the Megilat Setarim as well: "I am a secret, but I am the kind of secret that remains a secret even after it is revealed."

BRI Reseacher Debbie Shapiro Coming to US; 3 New Books in the Works

This post is an update to our February 16th, 2005 post of a press release from BRI:

Debbie Shapiro, a researcher for the Breslov Research Institute, will be coming to the United States in May to conduct interviews for three to-be-published books, b'ezrat Hashem, by BRI:
  • A tribute to the late Rabbi Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld
  • Stories by the "Knights of the Rosh Hahannah table" -- physical and spiritual journey to Uman
  • A woman's perspective on Breslov -- Breslover women talking about what it means to be a Breslover.

Anyone who has memories, anecdotes, or personal experiences that may contribute to these works is encouraged to contact Mrs. Shapiro.

Debbie Shapiro can be contacted for interviews at debbies@breslov.org

Divre Torah for Parshas Shemini from Breslov

Monday, April 17, 2006

On Break...

Will return after Pesach ----

Chag Kosher ve-Sameach!!!


-H.B.O. - Haside Breslov Online

Monday, April 03, 2006

Rebbe Nachman's Self-Praise - From ASimpleJew's Blog

The following is a wonderful guest posting from Rabbi David Sears on www.AsimpleJew.Blogspot.com :

Guest Posting From Rabbi Dovid Sears - Rabbi Nachman's "Self-Praise"

In honor of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's birthday, Rosh Chodesh Nissan, Rabbi Dovid Sears, Director of the Breslov Center for Spirituality and Inner Growth, and author of many books on Jewish thought provided the material for the posting below. It is excerpted from an e-mail interchange between himself and a person studying Breslover Chassidus.
Rabbi Nachman's "Self-Praise"Question:In Chayei Moharan 241-290, Rabbi Nachman indicates that he reached a level above that of the Tannaim, and speaks about his uniqueness as being beyond compare. How does this relate to the concept of "yeridas ha-doros?" To say that he was the greatest tzaddik of his generation (or since) doesn't bother me so much. I simply don't understand how this could be, or how one could surpass the Tannaim. What was the Rebbe's true intention in saying such things, and how is this understood, by knowledgeable Breslover Hasidim?
He also mentions that there were four unique figures: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the ARI HaKadosh, the Baal Shem Tov, and himself. But that seems to leave out quite a few. What about Moshe Rabbeinu? What about the Patriarchs? There seem to be many others, too, who brought major chiddushim to the world. I would like to understand how to understand these things in terms of hashkafah, and also to understand the Rebbe's intention in making these statements.
Rabbi Chaim Kramer told me the answer in passing: "So we would know what we're dealing with!" I hear that answer, but still feel the need to understand a little more. The advice and derech of the Rebbe have been very healing in my life, and his teachings speak to me in a very profound way. From his Torah, my sense of wonder in life and in the Torah has been restored. I want to go forward, and have actually made some progress. (I have really wrestled greatly with these kinds of things, internal battles about Breslov's legitimacy, etc.). Thank G-d, I have been able to come closer. But I want to be sure that I know why I am doing what I am doing -- "what to answer the apikorus (within me)" -- and that is why I ask these questions.
Answer:The idea of yeridas ha-doros gets a lot of emphasis in the yeshivah world, which is heavily influenced by the hashkofahs of the Rambam. However, the mekubalim teach us that simultaneously -- although we are moving away from Sinai both temporally and spiritually -- pnimiyus ha-Torah, the inner dimension of Torah, is becoming progressively more revealed.
That is, the keilim / vessels of human consciousness are subdividing and multiplying, which inevitably dims the light of divine revelation; however, at the same time, these oros / lights are shining from a higher spiritual altitude, or from a deeper source, so to speak. Ironically, this is gives these later generations an advantage over their predecessors. This principle underlies the Rebbe's statement about the four pre-eminent tzaddikim, each of whom, according to Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig's Chayei Nefesh (chapters 21, 34), revealed a "hischadshus be-kol ha-Torah kulo" -- that is, they revealed an entirely new dimension of Torah. Needless to say, this process begins with Moshe Rabbeinu, who is the personification of the "tzaddik emes" throughout Rabbi Nachman's works. The Rebbe focuses on Moshe Rabbeinu, and not so much the Avos, because Moshe includes the Avos within himself. That is, Moshe, who represents the sefirah of Da'as, includes Chesed-Gevurah-Tiferes, which come forth from Da'as, and are represented by the Avos. The Rebbe says so explicitly in Likkutei Moharan I, 58:4.As for the Rebbe's hispa'arus (self-praise), these statements come as a shock to most new mekurovim, because they seem so out of character for the Rebbe, or for that matter, any tzaddik. The Torah describes Moshe as " 'anav me-kol adam... the humblest man in the world." How can a tzaddik praise himself so shamelessly? However, this very pasuk provides an important key to understanding the entire problem. Moshe himself wrote these words -- yet he remained totally unimpressed with himself in doing so. This indicates that he had completely overcome any need to "prove himself," and had purged himself of even the least trace of self-importance.
Reb Noson discusses this in Shevachey Ha-Ran 22. He also adds that many tzaddikim in the Gemara behaved similarly; e.g. R' Yossi who declared: "Do not say that humility does not exist, because I am still here!" (Sota 49b).Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is also famous for such statements, e.g. "I have seen people of high attainments, but they are few. If there are one thousand, I and my son [Rabbi Elazar] are among them. If there are one hundred, I and my son are among them. And if there are only two, they are myself and my son" (Sukkah 45b). He also said: "I am able to absolve the world from heavenly judgment from the day I was born until now. If my son were with me, we could absolve the world from the first day of creation until now. And if Yotam ben Uziah [King of Yehudah] were with us, we could absolve the world from the beginning until the end of time" (ibid.). Moreover, it is known that there is an intimate connection between Reb Shimon and the Rebbe -- this being why Reb Noson placed the teaching "Lekhu chazu..." about Rabbi Shimon at the beginning of Likkutei Moharan.
A few years ago, I translated some quotes about humility from the Breslover seforim in "The Tree That Stands Beyond Space" (Breslov Research Institute), pp. 8-17; however, there are many more such teachings. In addition, the Rebbe indicates that bittul ha-yesh (nullification of ego) is the goal of hisbodedus and the doorway to all divine perception; see Likkutei Moharan I, 52 ("Ha-ne’or Ba-laylah"). So we are not discussing an issue that the Rebbe was unaware of, chas ve-shalom!
Maybe the answer lies in the debates between the various tzaddikim in the Rebbe's awesome story, "The Seven Beggars." It is axiomatic that no two tzaddikim occupy the same madreigah. Therefore, there must be one who is the highest: the "tzaddik bechinas Moshe," or "tzaddik emes." This tzaddik alone can lead all of Klal Yisrael, and enable each person to reach his or her tachlis / spiritual goal, together with all neshamos and all creation. However, we must do our part and recognize the "tzaddik bechinas Moshe" as such. This is what we failed to do again and again throughout the forty years in the wilderness; and this is our final challenge in these times, be-'ikvasa de-meshicha. The other tzaddikim in particular need to recognize this. See what the Tcheriner Rav writes about this problem in Rimzei ha-Ma'asiyos in connection with the debates in "The Seven Beggars." In the section that discusses the Sixth Day (although he also mentions the fourth day), beginning "le-'inyan hispa'arus," the Tcheriner Rav states: "When [the other tzaddikim] finally begin to perceive their own inadequacy, realizing that they are far from the power that [the Beggar With No Hands] possesses in his hands, then it will be possible to complete the healing of the Queen's Daughter all the more speedily -- may this be His will, speedily in our days!"If the Rebbe had not said these things, we never would have known.And we really need to know!
There is a story in Reb Avraham Sternhartz's Tovos Zichronos (oral traditions) about some astounding things one of the Reb Noson's talmidim told him in his youth about the Rebbe's power of tikkun ha-neshamos. An English translation by Rabbi Chaim Kramer appears in the back of The Breslov Haggadah.This is a slightly shorter version:
Reb Pinchas Yehoshua was the son of Reb Isaac the Sofer, a close disciple of Reb Noson. He was very poor, yet well known for his piety and great devotions. One day, Reb Pinchas Yehoshua made the pilgrimage to the Rebbe's gravesite in Uman, together with Reb Avraham Sternhartz, then in his early twenties, and Reb Motele Shochet, both of whom were very close to him. The three of them prayed there for many hours.
Reb Avraham writes: As we turned to leave the Rebbe's gravesite, Reb Pinchas Yehoshua began to tremble with great trepidation. "My friends," he said, "I looked at myself, and I saw that I have been reincarnated again and again into this world."He then began detailing the various generations in which he lived. He said that he had been alive in the time of a certain Tanna, and then in the generation of a particular tzaddik... As he spoke, Reb Pinchos Yehoshua carefully weighed his words, their truth being clear.
We believed him because we knew of his greatness and his incredible devotion to G-d. He even told us how many times his soul had already come back to this world. Reb Pinchas Yehoshua found it very hard to understand why, of all the people that lived in the world when his soul was first incarnated, he alone had to endure this. The Tanna had rectified other souls. Why not his? Why did he have to suffer so many incarnations?
Reb Pinchas Yehoshua began saying to himself, "Why was my soul left without a tikkun? Why was I left in the depths, in the abyss of my sins, so that I had to come down to this world again? Perhaps I will be rectified the second time around..."Then he told us that he came back in the generation of a different tzaddik. This tzaddik worked diligently to rectify neshamos and bring them back to their source. But as before, his soul was left without its tikkun, and he had to return again -- and again."I tried as hard as I could to understand why this was happening," Reb Pinchas Yehoshua continued. "Finally, I realized that I alone was responsible for my fate. I, myself, because of my difficult nature and improper deeds, had made it impossible for anyone to provide me with a tikkun. Had I not learned in the Gemara that 'the tzaddikim are builders?' It must have been my fault that these righteous leaders were powerless to include me in the buildings of holiness that they had built."
I looked at Reb Motele Shochet, and he looked back at me. Neither of us could believe what we were hearing. We stood there transfixed as Reb Pinchas Yehoshua went on."When constructing a building," he said, "a mason gathers all the stones that he needs for the first level of the building and starts cutting and chipping away at the corners. He forms the stones so that each one fits properly into place. When he has finished the first level, he again gathers the stones he needs and shapes them, so that he can then erect the second level. So it goes, level after level. At each level, the mason must make sure that all the stones he uses for the building are suitably formed. Many times we see that builders come across certain odd-shaped stones, which they try to use, only to find them too awkward to fit properly. In the end, they have no choice but to discard them." The same is true in spirituality. The great tzaddikim try to 'build' by attempting to rectify the souls of Israel. The Torah calls these souls 'stones.' The tzaddikim work hard at this. Each stone they come across, every soul they encounter, they do their very best to fit into the building of holiness they erect."
Reb Pinchas Yehoshua interrupted his words with a long, deep sigh. Then, with even greater intensity, he began again. "When it was my soul's turn to play its part in the building, I came before this great Tanna. He attempted to correct me, but found that he could not succeed. He worked very hard to ' shape' me, trying all different angles. However, no matter what he tried, it did not work. As soon as he corrected me on one side, I was found to be crooked on another side. Whichever way he turned my soul, it was still impossible for him to find a place for me in his 'building.' Seeing that it was futile, this Tanna left me alone. There was absolutely nothing he could do. The exact same thing happened the second time my soul descended into this world; and so it was with every subsequent incarnation. All the tzaddikim tried to rectify me, but their efforts failed. I was left alone through all those generations, thrown away like an odd-shaped stone, to be cast and kicked about forever."Yet G-d, Whose kindness is everlasting, wants all souls to be rectified, no matter what they have done. He saw my difficulties and sent me back to this world again.
However, this time, in my current incarnation, I discovered something completely new: a tzaddik with a 'building power' that I had never seen in any of my previous incarnations. This was Rebbe Nachman of Breslov! All the Upper Worlds tremble in awe of his greatness and his holiness. Rebbe Nachman believed that a person could always come close to G-d, no matter how distant he was. In a strong voice he called out from the depths of his heart, 'Never give up! Never despair!' This Rebbe Nachman described himself as 'a river that can cleanse all stains.' From Creation until today, there never was a tzaddik who spoke such words, and with such strength and such power.
In addition to hearing about Rebbe Nachman, G-d gave me the privilege of knowing Rebbe Nachman's closest disciple, Reb Noson. He taught me Rebbe Nachman's lessons and brought me to serve G-d."This is where I am now. "And now, when I think about this, I cannot help but wonder: How, after being so distant from G-d all those years, how is it possible that I should I merit such a great light? How could someone so undeserving come to know of Rebbe Nachman?"I only understood this after I contemplated the psalms of Hallel. 'The stone despised by all the builders has become the cornerstone.' In other words, this soul -- the very same soul that had been discarded by all the great tzaddikim -- has now come to the tzaddik, who is the 'cornerstone,' the foundation of the entire world. 'This has come from G-d; it is wondrous in our eyes.' It is truly wondrous how G-d deals with every single soul, making certain that it achieves its tikkun. The great tzaddikim never give up trying to correct all souls, because this is what G-d truly wants."I saw from this," Reb Pinchas Yehoshua concluded, "that no matter what happens to us, we must understand that there is salvation. We can always come back to G-d."And these are the next words we say in the Hallel: 'This is the day that G-d has made, we will rejoice...' For today, in our generation, G-d gave us such a great leader, Rebbe Nachman, who instilled in us the faith that we can always turn to G-d, no matter where we are. Then G-d will redeem the Jewish People, and we will know nothing but great joy and happiness all the rest of our days, amen!"