After an absence of over three years, Reb Noson was anxious to return to his own home, which he did without delay. He went back to Breslov even before Sukkos of 1838, and began rebuilding his life.
Reb Noson's major adversaries had died and some of his remaining opponents had relented, whether because of their own suffering or because of what they saw others going through. This helped quieten the hostilities against Reb Noson and the Breslover Chassidim. However not all their opponents were followers of the Savraner: others belonged to different chassidic groups which had their own reasons for opposing Breslover Chassidus. There was continuing antagonism, though it was conducted in a less overt manner, which at least left the Breslovers with room for growth.
Reb Noson's followers began visiting him at home again, and quite a number of guests came for Shabbos Chanukah. But four years of persecution had left Reb Noson quite fearful. He was well aware that the last time he had guests in Breslov for Shabbos Chanukah, in the winter of 1834-35, they had been arrested and he himself had to flee. Even when he had been in Nemirov people had threatened him about having guests.
In a letter congratulating Reb Avraham Ber, the Rebbe's grandson, on the birth of a child, Reb Noson gave vent to some of his anguish:
And know, my dear friend, that for Shabbos Chanukah we had several guests. Through God's amazing kindness, everything was peaceful. But it still troubles me that I was quite afraid. I hope to God that this fear in my heart will go away....
Thank God, we spoke words of truth, and we danced and were happy... After all the wonders we have witnessed and all God's kindness, you should all be aroused to make new efforts to serve God (Alim
In his letter to Reb Avraham Ber, the Rebbe's grandson, who was now becoming one of the leading members of the Breslover group in Tcherin, Reb Noson also touched on his own finances:
I don't know what to do about my livelihood. My trust is in God. You and all the others should stand by me and help me at all times... It is not an empty thing to assist me now, after all I have gone through. I have been persecuted, and if not for God's help...! No one can really understand what I carry in my heart... Who could believe that I would suffer this way yet still be able to accomplish holy tasks in this world. It is only fitting that you should continue to support me in every way possible... (ibid.).
It is interesting that Reb Noson writes that he places his trust in God, yet then goes on to ask Reb Avraham Ber and the other Breslover Chassidim in Tcherin to support him. All the chassidic masters were likewise dependent on the support of their followers, raising a question which Reb Noson himself discusses in
one of his discourses (Likutey Halakhos, Matnas Shkhiv Meira 2:2). Rebbe Nachman had taught that a person can only attain truth if he is totally independent of others. As long as one is in need of others, whether for money, honor or any other reason, one cannot attain absolute truth (Likutey Moharan I, 66:3). If so, Reb Noson asks, does this mean that all the tzaddikim are distant from truth, seeing as they all depend on the support of their followers? What is the meaning of the prayer in the race after Meals Grace after Meals, Please let us not depend on the gifts of flesh and blood? How can these tzaddikim honestly recite this prayer when their livelihood comes from their followers' gracious contributions?
Reb Noson's answer is that everything depends on the degree of faith of the individual receiving support. A person who truly believes with perfect faith that everything is in the hands of God, and that He is the One Who provides, is not dependent on man at all but only on God. Even such a person's requests for support from others or his acceptance of their contributions are merely channels for receiving God's Providence. However Reb Noson does add a caution on how this is to be understood, as there are many who will use this explanation as a rationalization for their own behavior even though they lack the requisite faith.
Reb Noson was now able to travel without fear of his life. During the fall and winter of 1838-9 he resumed his monthly pilgrimage to Rebbe Nachman's grave in Uman. 1 He was there again for Rosh Chodesh Sivan, and remained for Shavuos, after which he made his annual summer trip to Kremenchug and Tcherin. His visits there were similar to those Rebbe Nachman used to make. Reb Noson's intention was to strengthen the Breslover groups living in the towns and villages of the Eastern Ukraine. During this trip Reb Noson met with several of his long-standing friends, dancing and rejoicing with them, and strengthening them to renew their efforts in hisbodedus and the other pathways taught by Rebbe Nachman.
In the course of his trip Reb Noson also sought to raise funds, though he encountered the usual obstacles: one person was preoccupied with his affairs, another had gone travelling, and Reb Efraim b'Reb Naftali, who was accompanying him and upon whom Reb Noson was relying to assist him in Kremenchug, suddenly had to leave on a business trip. Noting the constant battles one has to wage for one's livelihood,
Reb Noson wrote to Reb Yitzchok:
Thank God I'm not trying to sell wheat or similar commodities My Imerchandise, my; with me everywhere merchandise is better than any other merchandise. It's with me everywhere I go! In His great mercy, God has given me the gift of language. I am able to discuss and explain the Rebbe's awesome teachings, which are so original and have such power to arouse and inspire all who hear them (Alim LiTerufah #283).
Whether on the road or at home, Reb Noson carried on reminding his children, his friends,his followers, and everyone else who would listen, about Rebbe Nachman's pathways.
The main thing is to radiate to the heart of every single person the knowledge that God is still with him. He should know and remember at all times that the whole earth is full of His glory, so as to wake up from his slumber in order not to waste all his days in darkness, God forbid (Alim LiTerufah #273).
It is essential to long and yearn to come close to God. Each day you must make a determined effort to articulate and express your longings in words... Especially now, as we wait for Mashiach to come, our only vitality is through prayer. Our only strength is the strength of our mouths (ibid.).
Even when one finds oneself totally unable to express oneself to God, one should still try at least to make some kind of gesture, or to put together even half a sentence just like a child of two or three years old. This too is very precious in God's eyes (ibid. #278).
QUOTE Make sure you don't look on all these teachings as old. You must not allow yourself to be old. These teachings must be new in your eyes every day. This is the foundation of the whole Torah, as we are advised in the Shema: ...the words which I am commanding you today! (ibid. #279).
Towards the late summer of 1839, Reb Noson was back in Breslov. Just before Rosh Chodesh Elul he received new travel documents, and soon afterwards he left for Uman, where he had to attend to repairs to the floor of the kloyz and prepare himself for Rosh HaShanah.
The need to print
The year 5600 (1840) promised to be a year of
great significance in the history of the world. According to the Holy Zohar, it was to be the start of a new age of revelation, in which the gates of heavenly wisdom would be opened. New inventions, bringing an easy life, would descend from above, so that the world could enter the Seventh Millennium, the Shabbos of God, in rest and comfort. 2 Jews throughout the world took this as a prophecy about the imminent coming of Mashiach, which was one of the major talking points of the time.
In Reb Noson's eyes, the greatest wonder of the era was the revelation of Rebbe Nachman's teachings, which show how even people who are totally remote from God can be stirred from their spiritual sleep and brought to serve Him. Reb Noson wrote to Reb Yitzchok that he was confident that even greater wonders would be revealed in the future. At the same time, he quoted the statement of the Sages that, Mashiach, a sudden windfall and a scorpion all come unexpectedly (Sanhedrin 97a), adding that constant talk about Mashiach's arrival and improper calculations actually delay his coming. Reb Noson wove these ideas into one of his discourses, explaining the paradox of how one must constantly hope for Mashiach's coming, even though his arrival will be unexpected. For Reb Noson, the opening of the gates of wisdom means that people will be given the power to complete holy tasks (see Likutey Halakhos, Matanah 5:32-49).
There was one Breslover Chassid who was quite convinced that Mashiach was due that year. Hearing of the way he held forth about this, Reb Noson said, It's a false tiding! The man became so angry that he cursed Reb Noson. When his other followers heard about this, they urged Reb Noson to send him away. Reb Noson would not hear of it and the man eventually repented (Siach Sarfei Kodesh 166).
Rather than speculate about Mashiach's coming, Reb Noson saw his own contribution to the dawning redemption in a far more practical way. Since Rebbe Nachman had taught that the redemption was dependent on Jews having faith in God, with all that this entails, Reb Noson wanted to ensure that Rebbe Nachman's teachings would continue to spread, providing pathways to faith and redemption for all Jews. Reb Noson was now approaching sixty. Uppermost in his mind at this time was the need to make a new start at printing Rebbe Nachman's works. The urgency of the task was only heightened by the vigorous efforts the maskilim were then making to publish a wide variety of books and pamphlets. They were using every possible way to disseminate their view that the modern Jew had to drop the traditions that d him from the wider world and embrace non-Jewish culture. Reb Noson'sview of these publications is contained in a letter he wrote from Uman in 1842:
I've just been shown several evil and bitter pamphlets a root bearing gall and wormwood (Deuteronomy 29:17) produced by those despicable Jews who have thrown off their yoke entirely. They are constantly printing works that will keep people's souls trapped in the pit and abyss. May God save us! This is a tragedy. We should tear our clothes into thousands of shreds over every single wicked, bitter, putrid word of theirs. They are like piercing swords against God, His Torah and His tzaddikim... At least we should be happy that we are not part of them, for their lot is not the lot of Jacob (Alim LiTerufah #370).
As far as Reb Noson was concerned, the only true antidote was the printing and dissemination of the writings of Rebbe Nachman. But this was now more problematic than ever. Funding of the project would be very difficult printing costs were high, and most printers wanted a large deposit at the start, while Reb Noson lived in extreme poverty. Worse still, he now faced obstacles to the actual printing itself as a result of the growing influence of the maskilim with the authorities. They paraded the ideal of freedom of expression when it came to disseminating their own writings, but at the same time were waging a determined campaign against the printing of Torah works. It was on their instigation that the government had imposed its ban on the printing of the Zohar,the Kabbalah, the writings of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady, and those of Rebbe Nachman, etc., while instituting censorship on all other Torah works and closing most of the Jewish presses.
For Reb Noson to try to reopen his own press, even secretly, was quite unthinkable. The issue of his having once had a press had figured prominently in the official investigations into his activities during the Years of Oppression. After the murderous persecution he had endured from his chassidic adversaries, Reb Noson was not prepared to undertake any such risk. On the other hand, there was nowhere else in Russia that he could print. Even if he could find a printing-house, the maskilim who sat as advisors in the censor's offices would certainly object to all Breslover publications.
The Midrash teaches that when the Jewish People left Egypt, they were like a dove fleeing from a hawk. The dove went into a cleft in the rock, only to find a snake nesting there. For the dove to go further in was impossible, because of the snake. To retreat was also impossible, because of the hawk. What did the dove do? She started crying and beating her wings so that the owner of the dovecote would hear and come to save her. The same was with the Israelites at the Red Sea. They couldn't go into the sea as it hadn't been split for them yet. To go back was impossible as Pharaoh was already coming closer. What did they do? They were very afraid, and the Children of Israel cried out to God (Exodus 14:10). Immediately,And God saved... (ibid. 14:30) (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 2:14).
Printing Rebbe Nachman's works was one of the main missions of Reb Noson's life, but whichever way he looked, he was beset with obstacles. Retreat was impossible. As always, he raised his voice in Torah and prayer. We do not possess Reb Noson's prayers from this period, though from the eloquent outpourings in Likutey Tefilos, written over twenty years earlier, we can gain an inkling of how this tireless warrior of prayer must have appealed to God for help. On the other hand, we do have his discourses in Likutey Halakhos, in which he speaks again and again about the greatness of spreading the teachings of the tzaddik.
The way to the first salvation had been prepared some seven years earlier, in 1834, with the visit to Breslov of Reb Chaim Cohen, an uncle of Reb Noson's first wife (see Chapter 33). He lived in Lemberg (Lvov), and told Reb Noson it would be possible for him to print there. Not only was Lemberg a center for the printing of Torah works; ever since the first partition of Poland in 1772, it had been under the rule of Austria, obviating the problems of Russian censorship.
The last time Reb Noson had been in contact with Reb Chaim Cohen was in 1834, just before the onset of the Years of Oppression. He wrote to him again in the course of 1839-40, and just before Purim 1840 received the first of several encouraging answers. Reb Noson remembered that the Rebbe himself had hinted to him that his works would be printed in Lemberg. Reb Noson decided to travel to Brody and Lemberg in person in order to see what could be done to arrange the printing (Aveneha Barzel p.54, #20).
The first need was for money. Reb Noson wanted to travel in the Ukraine in order to muster support from the Breslover Chassidim. But that winter his son, Reb Dovid Zvi, became very ill and was in constant pain. For one period of forty-eight hours Reb Dovid Zvi thought he was going out of his mind because of the pain and lack of sleep. Afterwards he had a few days of respite, but then his pain returned and he again became critically ill. Reb Noson was extremely worried, and gave money to charity,as well as requesting all the Breslover Chassidim to pray for his son. Describing those difficult days to Reb Yitzchok, Reb Noson wrote:
I depended only on God. I prayed to God over and over again, and even though I saw that I had not accomplished anything as yet he was screaming with pain even so, I made adetermined effort to pray again and again. Eventually God had mercy, and at last he fell asleep for several hours... What can I tell you, my dear son. We must be very strong, and pray about everything in our lives. It is useless to try to rely on any other stratagems... (Alim LiTerufah #297).
Reb Dovid Zvi's condition improved, and Reb Noson then set off for his winter trip to the Kremenchug Tcherin area. Besides encouraging the chassidim to strengthen themselves in their devotions, he sought to convince them of the importance of printing the Rebbe's works and donating the necessary funds.
It was far from easy to raise the money. Reb Noson wrote back to Reb Yitzchok:
It would be impossible for me to describe to you everything one sees and hears while travelling. Everyone wants to serve God. Deep within their hearts everyone is crying bitterly over their terrible distance from the ultimate purpose of life. But they're all like birds caught in a snare: they are overwhelmed by all their material appetites, especially by their preoccupation with making a living. Worst of all is the fact that the majority of people have fallen into complete despair of ever being able to direct themselves to the true purpose
of life or lift themselves up. And because of the terrible opposition to us, they are unable to receive from the sweet honey of the Rebbe's pure teachings, which have the power to revive and inspire all the fallen souls... (Alim LiTerufah #304).In another letter, Reb Noson wrote:
I feel weaker, and old age has sprung upon me. My enemies have sapped my strength. Still, God saved me from them, and I console myself with the fact that He has shown me such great mercy in bringing me to the great light of the Rebbe... (Alim LiTerufah #303).
If there were many frustrations, Reb Noson revived himself by looking for the good points.
I read in the Eyn Yaakov a passage I have often seen, about how God always views the mitzvos of a Jew with favor, even if they are as meagre as the findings of a chicken pecking about in a dump. I have reviewed this passage many times before, but only now has it dawned on me that it alludes to the Rebbe's teaching of Azamra, about searching for the good points in oneself and others. A chicken might find one grain of wheat in the morning and then go on pecking for hours and hours in search of another. The chicken keeps pecking! We too have to keep doing mitzvos, even though to us they may seem insignificant, few and far between. Many hours may pass between one mitzvah and the next. Meanwhile we peck through the waste of life our many troubles! Still, our mitzvos are very precious in God's eyes... See, my son! Were it not for the teachings of the Rebbe, we would never have been able to fully appreciate and understand the words of our Sages... (Alim LiTerufah #303).
Reb Noson returned home from Tcherin in time for Pesach.
He was happy to find Reb Dovid Zvi with a smile on his face, and he also had other reasons to be joyous, as both Reb Yitzchok and Chanah Tsirel had new babies. In the discourse he was writing at the time, Reb Noson spoke about the greatness of having children, and how the birth of new souls in the world increases the glory of GodHe now started making practical preparations for his trip to Lemberg.
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