About the Translations
Most of the teachings in this book have been translated and adapted from the classic Breslov anthology Emet VaTzedek (Truth and Justice), compiled by the distinguished Breslov scholar, halachic authority, and Kabbalist, Rabbi Nachman Goldstein, better known as the Rav of Tcherin. First published in Lemberg, in 1874, Emet VaTzedek constitutes volume one of the Rav of Tcherin's Otzar HaYirah (A Treasury of Awe), also known as Likutey Eitzot HaMeshulosh (The Threefold Likutey Eitzot).
The first section of Otzar HaYirah consists of the original text of Likutey Eitzot (translated into English under the Advice, Breslov Research Institute, 1983), an early work gleaned from Likutey Moharan (Collected Teachings of Our Master, Rebbe Nachman [1772-1810]) and Rebbe Nachman's other writings by his closest disciple, Reb Noson Sternhartz (1780-1844) and arranged by topic. The second section consists of new material from Rebbe Nachman's writings on more or less the same topics, collected by the Rav of Tcherin. The third section adds a broad range of excerpts from Reb Noson's eight-volume master work, Likutey Halakhot (Collected Laws), original expositions based on Rebbe Nachman's teachings and stories. Sometimes the Rav of Tcherin condenses these excerpts for the sake of clarity.
Additionally, we have translated several longer selections from Likutey Halakhot, six prayers from Reb Noson's Likutey Tefilot (Collected Prayers), and a few of the Rav of Tcherin's novellae on Likutey Moharan from his Parparaot L'Chokhmah (Condiments To Wisdom),
Yekara D'Shabbata (Preciousness of the Shabbat) and Zimrat Ha'Aretz (Song of the Land). All of these works are based upon Rebbe Nachman's magnum opus Likutey Moharan and his shorter teachings, Sichot HaRan (translated under the Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom,
Breslov Research Institute, 1973), and they clarify and develop the central concepts of Rebbe Nachman's works. Also included is a teaching from Avaneha Barzel by Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz (1905-1973), a key figure in the twentieth century Breslov community in Jerusalem.
The text has been divided into five basic sections: Bitul HaYesh, Self-Nullification; Hasagat Elokut, Divine Perception; Hashgachah,
Divine Providence; Machshavah, Thought; and Hitbodedut, Meditation and Prayer. However, these divisions are unavoidably arbitrary, since one theme often flows into another. Thebook begins with the subject of bitul hayesh because overcoming the ego is the prerequisite
for all spiritual growth.
A word of caution: All translations are interpretations, and the present volume is no exception. Sometimes we found it necessary to insert explanatory remarks into the translated text or to extend an abbreviated teaching, such as those found in Emet VaTzedek, by referring
back to the original Torah lesson in LikuteyMoharan from which it was derived. Usually this material is set off in brackets, but
occasionally we chose to incorporate it into the text for the sake of readability. On other occasions, we took the liberty of condensing a lengthy passage into a few lines. However, we have tried our best to remain faithful to the meaning and context of the original teachings,
having indicated all source references by section number, and where necessary by the initials of the , in parentheses after each selection, so that one who wishes to study the original may do so easily.
While there is no dearth of mystical testimonies from adherents of both Eastern and Western religious traditions, most Jews, even those who attended yeshiva, do not know that a similar body of mystical literature may be found within their own tradition. Jewish mystics almost invariably have been reluctant to describe their subjective experiences. This is due in part to the general climate of secrecy surrounding the Merkavah and Kabbalah traditions. As the Talmud states: It is forbidden to teach the mysteries of the Merkavah even to one disciple unless he already understands from his own heart (Chagigah 11b). In addition, openly discussing these matters runs the risk of subverting one's spiritual practice by introducing an element of self-importance, however subtle, and this tinge of ego is the antithesis of the quest for God.
On the other hand, there are times when it is a mitzvah to do so. Without such teachings, those who follow the path of Torah would find themselves bereft of a necessary part of the mesorah the unbroken chain of transmission from Mount Sinai passed down from master to disciple throughout the generations. Over the centuries it became necessary to write down substantial parts of this oral tradition.
Thus, here and there one does come across such experiential mystical teachings. These testimonies can serve as keys to understanding the more abstruse and intentionally cryptic material found in classical Kabbalistic works such as Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation), Sefer HaBahir (Book of Illumination), Zohar (Book of Splendor), Pardes Rimonim (Orchard of Pomegranates) of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, and the writings of the Ari z'l.
With the birth of the Chassidic movement initiated by the Baal Shem Tov (Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer, 16981760), the fog of secrecy surrounding the way of the Jewish mystic began to dissipate. One of the Baal Shem Tov's explicit goals was to enable every Jew, scholar
and nonscholar alike, to develop an intimate personal relationship with God, leading to the experience of devekut (mystical communion).
Taste and see that God is good (Psalms 34:9) became the Chassidic rallying cry for the restoration of p'nimiut (inwardness) in Jewish practice. Therefore, Chassidic texts tend to employ more experiential language than earlier Kabbalistic writings. Sometimes the Chassidic masters were even willing to commit to print the sort of spiritual guidance that heretofore had been reserved for private instruction between teachers and students.
The Breslov Chassidic tradition in particular possesses a great deal of this material. Until recently these teachings were largely unknown
to the English-speaking public. A good deal of it still is. Therefore, we have prepared a sampling of Breslov writings on the mystical experience, most of which has never before appeared in translation.
In many cases, we have not translated these passages in full, due to the complexity of the ideas and the limited scope of this book. Moreover, discussion of the mystical experience and the challenges of the spiritual life is not limited to the teachings we have chosen, but pervades the entire corpus of Breslov literature. Nevertheless, we hope that this small anthology, incomplete as it necessarily must be, will serve as a starting point for those who wish to further explore Breslov Chassidus, and who we hope will seek the guidance of a teacher who faithfully represents the Breslov mesorah.
A final recommendation: This book was written as an integrated collection of texts on related themes. Therefore, we suggest that it be read through from cover to cover in one or two sittings. Certain concepts will become clearer when they are understood in their overall context.
You may then find it more productive to reflect on the individual teachings. In general, this is the Breslov approach in Torah study, but it applies to this volume especially.
Some readers may expect this book to be an instruction manual or primer for aspiring Jewish mystics. This it cannot be. As we have explained in the concluding essay, The Practice of Breslov Chassidus, the only central instruction manual in Breslov literature is Likutey Moharan. When approached in the proper manner, Rebbe Nachman's discourses are paved paths to the ultimate spiritual goal.
May our efforts benefit all those who seek to ascend what our holy master, Rebbe Nachman, describes as the Tree That Stands Beyond Space (Sippurey Ma'asiot, Tale of the Seven
Beggars, The Fifth Day): In the shadow of its branches, all creatures live in peace and delight forever.