Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Yahrtzeit 18 Tishrei - Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (and a Story!)

Under the Table - and How to Get Up


The 18th Tishrei – the fourth day of the festival of Sukkot, is the anniversary of the passing of the Tzaddik – Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810.) Great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov (his mother Feiga was the daughter of Idel, the daughter of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760)) – he was a Tzaddik in his own right. He is one of the better known great Rebbi's today with a following of tens of thousands of Chassisim and more! Many people, though not dressed in the "Chassidic garb" spend hundreds of hours each year involved in learning Rabbi Nachman's magnum opus "Likutei Moharan" (the collected teachings of Rabbi Nachman), as well as his teachings written over by his pupil Rabbi Nosson of Nemirov as collected in his Likutei Halachot – a commentary of 3600 pages on the main code of Jewish Law – the Shulchan Aruch written by Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575.)

Rabbi Nachman was just 38 and a half years old when he left this world, though to begin to speak of his accomplishments during this brief period of time would be impossible for even the greatest of the Breslov leaders of our times. They themselves would be the first to admit this! To some, Rabbi Nachman was the Kabbalist par excellence, while to others he was the master story teller! His stories are so well known, so popular and meaningful that they can be found within ordinary secular libraries. Their messages hit home – they move the heart, and they speak of the mysteries of the world! As for Rabbi Nachman's teachings, he covers everything from the importance of learning Jewish law – Halacha – as it is taught traditionally without any "Chassidic twists," to the importance of secluded meditation – daily – between just the person and G-d – Hisbodedus, to the importance of growth through the entire Torah – literally everything! He was a true master and a Rebbi. There are hundreds of sites on the Internet teaching his teachings, often quoting the same exact quotes again and again – because of their great importance in daily life. "Never give up" – Rabbi Nachman taught, and "There is no such thing as despair!".He taught – "If you believe that you can damage, believe that you can fix."

Practically almost all of Rabbi Nachman's teachings have been translated into an abundance of languages, including English, with the help of such rabbis as Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan and Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum. Likutei Halachot has not yet been translated in its entirety however.

In honour of Rabbi Nachman's yahrtzeit, one of his stories follows. For a full commentary on this wonderful story, get a hold of the book "Under the Table" written by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum, or see the author's own site (and be in touch with him directly) at www.azamra.org. The book – based on this story, explores and teaches the importance of facing reality, of meditation, of correct eating habits, of observation of Mitzvot and much more. Written in beautifully flowing English, it will keep you glued from started to finish – so much that you'll want to read it again and again, and so you should.


A royal prince once became mad and thought that he was a turkey. He felt compelled to sit naked under the table, pecking at bones and pieces of bread like a turkey. The royal physicians all gave up hope of ever curing him of his madness, and the king suffered tremendous grief.

A sage then came and said, "I will undertake to cure him." The sage undressed and sat naked under the table next to the prince, picking crumbs and bones. "Who are you?" asked the prince. "What are you doing here?"

"And you?" replied the sage. "What are you doing here?"

"I am a turkey," said the prince.

"I am also a turkey," answered the sage.

They sat together like this for some time, until they became good friends. One day, the sage signalled the king's servants to throw him shirts. He said to the prince, "What makes you think that a turkey can't wear a shirt? You can wear a shirt and still be a turkey." With that, that two of them put on shirts.

After a while, he signaled them again, and they threw him a pair of pants. Just as before, he said, "What makes you think that you can't be turkey if you wear pants?"

The sage continued in this manner until they were both completely dressed. Then he signalled again, and they were given regular food from the table. Again the sage said, "What makes you think that you will stop being a turkey if you eat good food? You can eat whatever you want and still be a turkey!" They both ate the food.

Finally, the sage said, "What makes you think a turkey must sit under the table? Even a turkey can sit at the table."

The sage continued in this manner until the prince was completely cured.

(Story taken from "Rabbi Nachman's Stories" translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. A must for every Jewish home and mind!)

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