Who can express the mighty acts of God or make heard all His praise?
(Psalms 106:2). Who can describe or even form an estimate of all the great and awesome wonders performed by our leader, teacher and Rebbe, light of lights, radiance of radiances, the treasured, hidden and concealed light? Awesome indeed was the work of the Rebbe for the sake of the community of the souls of Israel, upon whom all the worlds depend. Even more so were his accomplishments for the benefit of his followers, those who were worthy of taking refuge in his holy shade and of hearing the words that came from his lips words concealed by the Ancient of Days. And greatest of all was what he accomplished for me, poor needy being that I am. He raised me up from the dust and the dunghill and brought me to himself. In his love he drew me closer than anyone else, and appointed me to receive and write down his Torah teachings, his conversations and his stories. He accorded me the privilege of being the one to write all of them. And he said openly that there was nobody who knew anything of what he was only I knew just a little. He spoke in the same vein on several occasions.1
I know full well in my heart of hearts that in all truth it is impossible to tell anything of him. Nothing one can say is adequate. I have already written a great deal, and I have passed on more orally to my friends and pupils. Thanks to God, my words have made some impression
with the help of the Rebbes great strength. The truth has entered their hearts like a burning fire, and they have been greatly stirred to the
service of God. Some have already left this world in holiness and purity: they departed with a good name from amidst words of Torah and
prayer, and with perfect faith. Their portion is life! And as for those who remain (may they be blessed with length of days and years), with
Gods help they are strong in the truth and in faith strong like a molten mirror (Job 37:18) they will never be moved.
Yet, for all this, I know in my heart that there is still much for them to learn. The radiant truth is not yet fixed in their hearts as strongly
as it is in mine. In the words of our Rabbis, of blessed memory: Much have I learned from my teachers, yet I skimmed of their knowledge no
more than a dog who laps at the ocean. And my pupils have skimmed of my knowledge no more than a make_up brush picks up on one insertion in the tube of color (Sanhedrin 68a).
What can I say? All this touches on the knowledge of the pleasant radiance of Godliness, and the place of this knowledge is in the heart. It is therefore an individual matter: each person can only understand it according to his hearts capacity.2
As for the Rebbes mighty powers and awesome accomplishments he toiled and struggled so much in the service of God that he rose to levels where he could draw profound wisdom deep waters, counsel in the heart of man (Proverbs 20:5); exceedingly deep, who can find it out? (Ecclesiastes 7:25). With his exalted wisdom and towering strength he was able to
radiate even to the heart of the most broken person a quite amazing illumination of Godliness. This is something unparalleled in the history of the world. The Rebbe alludes to this in his lesson in Likutey Moharan I, 30, where he writes that we need a greatteacher, an awesome craftsman, a faithful doctor...with the power to bring an understanding of Godliness into the hearts of the small, the sick and those who are distant from God.
Mere human lips, pen and paper are quite inadequate to express even a thousandth part of what is in my heart. Yet to pass over the matter in silence is also impossible. Thus, from the day that I was worthy of drawing near and becoming his follower, God has strengthened me and the Rebbe encouraged me to occupy myself in writing down the awesome revelations that make up his holy Torah teachings. God gave me the strength to record the events surrounding his discourses and any related conversations as well, because I know that every single word is pure Torah.
At first I did not take care to write down every single holy word or conversation of his. I recorded what had obvious relevance to his more formal discourses, but as for his other conversations, I often did not write them down at all. But, from the time I first began to realize his awesome, holy level, I was always saying there should be someone at hand to write down every single word that came from his holy lips with such purity and holiness. Indeed, whatever he said had the grace and beauty of truth and was spoken with an awesome fear of Heaven and burning fire.
Even his everyday conversations, including those relating to his personal needs, were worth recording. His every word burned like fire.
Yet, I realized it would be impossible to record everything, and as a result my resolve became weakened and I did not always make the effort
to record even some of his words of Torah. I only wrote down conversations which expressed a complete Torah thought or which had some relevance to one of his discourses.
It was not until several years after I became his follower that God aroused my heart to begin to note down a number of conversations and ideas which we heard from him then or had heard previously. I also wrote an account of some of the things which had happened to him or his followers and I recorded a portion of his descriptions of the labors and efforts in the service of God which had brought him to achieve what he did. I wrote an account of his journey to the Land of Israel and recorded some of the episodes connected with his various Torah discourses and stories, and the chain of events which caused his mercy to be aroused to the point where he opened his holy lips and revealed what he revealed.3
It would be impossible to convey in writing a real sense of what it was actually like when these things happened. Nevertheless, I have not refrained from writing at least what could be written. On the basis of what I have written anyone with understanding will be able to form some conception of what it was really like.
Perhaps...perhaps...the generations to come will also be worthy of knowing all the great wonders which the Lord of All has done with us, He who leads each generation in His love, the thoughts of Whose heart are from generation to generation and Who constantly works new wonders in order that His name may be praised throughout the earth, so that in all generations men should be stirred to return to Him. For God has already cleared us a straight path as a result of the labors of the Rebbe, of blessed memory. Now anyone who wants to can easily draw close to God by following the paths explained in the Rebbes holy books. Happy is he who keeps to them. Turn them and turn them, over and over, again and again.
Contemplate them and wax gray and old over them, and stir not from them.
Because you can have no better rule than this.4
All this my eye saw...because it is Gods desire that I should set it all forth in a book. For some time now I have therefore set myself to record
every conversation, event and story that I could remember, and this is what is contained in this book. I have given it the title of Chayey MoHaRaN 6literally The Lives of Moreinu HaRav Nachman, because the Hebrew word for life, chayim, is a plural form7 because the bulk of it is concerned with his holy life and what happened to him in his lifetime. For he was the true live man, the like of whom there never
was. At all times he was truly alive. His life was always new life and this we heard from his own lips. Once he said: Today I have lived a life
I never lived before.5
In the same vein I heard him many times express his pride in the life he
had and his low opinion of the life of most of the people in this world,
who pay no regard to their ultimate destiny. There are countless
gradations in the life and vitality found in the world. Real life is the
life of true wisdom, as it is written: Wisdom gives life to those who
possess it (Ecclesiastes 7:12). And the essence of wisdom is to labor
and endeavor to know and acknowledge God, Who is the Life of life. The
closer one comes to God, the more his life is genuine life. The opposite
is also true. This is why the wicked are called dead even in their
lifetimes, and conversely the righteous are called alive even after their death (Berakhot 18a). The righteous are constantly attached to true life, as it is written: And you who are attached to the Lord your God, all of you are alive today (Deuteronomy 2:4). This is the life for which we pray repeatedly on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur: Remember us for life; Inscribe us for life16 etc. Beside this,everything else is vanity: it isnt life at all. Of the true life it is said: in order that you may live (Deuteronomy 16:20; 30:19); in order that yourdays should be many (Ibid. 11:21); in order that you should live (Ibid. 5:30; 8:1) etc.
But the life which the Rebbe himself achieved was on an altogether higher, more exalted plane, the like of which no man has ever tasted. Happy is he who is worthy of sensing a little of the radiant pleasantness of his life. Because the Rebbe had long life, the truly good life, as may be understood from the story of The Seven Beggars.17 This was the life King David prayed for: Give me to know the path of
life... (Psalms 16:11).S
This book contains the various things we heard from his holy lips, including many conversations and stories for his conversations were
entirely Torah. It also includes a number of events which occurred between the Rebbe and his followers. From all these things, anyone with intelligence will be able to realize his formidable greatness and holiness, which the mouth cannot express nor the heart conceive. But in the final analysis even one who understands must be silent as he begins to get a glimmering realization of how all his understanding is no more than a drop from the great ocean. Even from what we heard and saw
ourselves we have only been able to present a small portion here, and that by way of hints and allusions. And because of the terrible controversy which has sprung up around him we have been obliged to bridle our tongues and refrain from praise. Even the little we were
worthy of knowing of his awesome holiness and inconceivable exaltedness is impossible to relate in toto because of the great opposition.
If I have recorded it, it is for the generations which are to come and the times which are in store (may they come in peace!) in order that it
may not be forgotten from our lips and the lips of our seed, in order that the generations to come may know the great love and esteem of
Israel before God: for they have been worthy in these last generations
of a pure and radiant light such as this the hidden, stored light. Happy is the eye which saw him. Happy is the ear which heard his holy
words. If you delve deeply into his holy books you will understand a little of his towering holiness.
The words of the author, the little one: NATHAN, the son of my lord, father and teacher, Rabbi NAFTALI HERTZ (may his Rock guard him and give him life) of Nemirov.
I would like to request that the reader not be surprised if at times in the course of the book he finds certain conversations or stories of the
Rebbe which appear simplistic or other matters with no apparent explanation at all. Do not wonder why they were written. The truth is
that there is a reason for everything that is written here the Rebbes words, his conversations and his stories. Anyone who was worthy of standing before him and hearing them in person received some illumination and would understand that these things were very high and exalted. Every word from the Rebbes holy lips would stir him to draw closer to God.
For this reason I could not refrain myself from noting down certain stories and conversations for the sake of having them on record, even
though in some cases the reader cannot be expected to have any understanding at all of the true meaning behind them. Nevertheless, A
Mishnah does not move from its place (Yebamot 30a), and whoever desires the truth will be able to find in most of these conversations things which are truly extraordinary. He will be able to derive great
inspiration and find guidance and encouragement as to how to strengthen himself and never despair in any way whatsoever. For it is not an empty matter for you (Fd1ofnFa2, mikem) (Deuteronomy 32:47) and if it is empty, it is mikem from you! (Yerushalmi Peah 1). Even the Rebbes most simple words radiate with light. They have the power to arouse the whole world to serve God. This was the Rebbes entire purpose all the days of his holy life. Indeed, we heard from his own lips that even his simple conversations should be written down, for his every single remark contained the deepest intentions and rules for life. Everyone can derive from them the most wonderful guidance and rules of true conduct in the
service of God.8