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The Essential Rabbi Nachman

A treasury of sayings, teachings, parables and stories
by the outstanding Chassidic sage, mystic and visionary,
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810),
whose message of faith, hope, courage, simplicity and joy
is essential to each one of us
and essential to the whole world.

Translated by
Avraham Greenbaum


"Deep waters are the words of the mouth of a man, a flowing stream, the source of wisdom"
(Proverbs 18:4) .

The initial letters of the last four Hebrew words in the verse, N achal N ove'a M ekor Ch ochmah , "a
flowing stream, source of wisdom" - form an acrostic of the name NaChMaN .

Amidst the confusing choices, contradictions and extremes confronting us on every side in today's
world, never has the "flowing stream, the source of wisdom" - Rabbi Nachman's voice of honest
truth, sanity, kindness and sound guidance for life - been more essential and necessary for each one
of us and for the entire world!

THE ESSENTIAL RABBI NACHMAN is a rich treasury of his inspiring sayings and profound
teachings on all aspects of life with a wide selection of his artlessly beautiful, witty and profoundly
deep tales and parables. These are among the most priceless jewels of the Jewish heritage and have
universal application to people of all backgrounds and beliefs. The selections included here have
been newly translated from the original sources into the simplest possible language of today in
order for Rabbi Nachman to speak to each one of us softly, clearly and directly, heart to heart.

Rabbi Nachman is "a tree with sustenance, shade and shelter for all" (cf. Daniel 4:9) . Everyone
who knows his works has his or her own favorite passages. At certain junctures in life what may
once have seemed opaque begins to radiate with meaning. Any selection is bound to be personal - I
am sorry if due to lack of space or for some other reason I have omitted what others would have
included. I have aimed to provide a wide selection of Rabbi Nachman's most fundamental teachings
on faith, hope, courage, simplicity, and joy, spiritual growth, prayer from the heart, desire and
longing, purity of thought and purity of heart, Israel and Mashiach.

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After reading from the Torah in the Temple on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would say:
"More than I have read to you is written in this Torah scroll" ( Yoma 68b) . Likewise, in addition to
the tremendous spiritual wealth in the selections of Rabbi Nachman included in the present
volume, there are also many more abundant riches for further exploration in the original
collections of Rabbi Nachman's sayings, teachings and stories, almost all of which are today
available in authoritative English translations with extensive commentary.

Yet the very availability of so many volumes may itself be daunting to those who are not sure where
to begin.

THE ESSENTIAL RABBI NACHMAN is for those who seek one book that covers the entire
span of Rabbi Nachman's ideas, teachings and tales. Those with access to the Hebrew originals will
readily see that many of the intricacies of the Rebbe's dazzling hermeneutics based on multiple
Biblical, Talmudic, Midrashic, Halachic and Kabalistic sources have been omitted, while in some
cases lengthy passages have been briefly summarized. The purpose has been to provide a clear
thread of meaning for those whose primary concern is to discover Rabbi Nachman's actual message
and how to apply it.

I am deeply grateful to all those who have given their generous support to the writing and printing
of this book, and in particular to Elyahu & Esther Bortnick, Bill Bron, Shemaia Mathe, Eliyahu
Reiter, Fonda Roth, Tzvi & Dafna Small and Jack & Elka Soussana as well as to those who wish to
remain anonymous. With God's help, may this work contribute to spreading the words of Rabbi
Nachman far and wide throughout the entire world, inspiring men and women, young and old
everywhere to search in their hearts and join together, turning to God to serve Him with one
accord until "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah
11:9) .

Director, Azamra Institute

Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh, 24 Elul 5766


He was the true "live man," the like of whom there has never been. At all times he was truly alive.
His life was always new life. There are countless gradations in the life and vitality found in the
world. Real life is the life of true wisdom, 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 one's
life is genuine life. The righteous are constantly attached to true life. 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. Because the Rebbe had long life, the truly good life.

Chayey Moharan, Introduction

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Feeling others' pain

You should be able to feel another person's pain in your heart - all the more so when many people
are suffering. It is possible to know another person's pain and suffering yet still not feel them in
your heart.

When many people are suffering, you should certainly feel their pain in your heart.

And if you do not feel it, you should knock your head against the wall: you should strike your head
- your mind and intelligence - against the walls of your heart!

This is the meaning of the words: "Know this day and realize it in your heart ." (Deuteronomy
4:39) . You must bring the realization from your mind into your heart. Understand this well.

Sichot Haran #39

* * *

How are you?

When someone asks his friend how he is and the friend says, "Not good", this can be an opening for
trouble. Because God says: "You call this not good? I'll show you what not good is!"

But if when his friend asks how he is, he answers brightly, "Good, thank God!" even though things
really are not so good, God says: "This you call good? I'll show you what good is!"

Siach Sarfey Kodesh 1-32

* * *

Receiving from one another

Talk over spiritual matters with your friends. Each Jew has his own unique good point. Thus when
two friends have a discussion, each can benefit from the other's good point. Sometimes your
friend's good point may shine to you during a conversation that is outwardly about mundane topics
- because at times even mundane conversations may give rise to new ideas and inspire you
spiritually. At times a person's good point may be veiled - and the words of the conversation
become a kind of clothing for it.

By discussing spiritual matters regularly with your friends you will all be able to benefit from each
other's good points. This will enable you to break the "foreskin of the heart" - the lusts and desires
that break a person's heart - so that you are filled with holy desire for God.

Likutey Moharan I, 34

* * *

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Working for a civilized world

People should make it their business to talk to others about the purpose of life. For "He did not
create (the world) to be desolate, He formed it to be inhabited" (Isaiah 45:18) . We all have an
obligation to try to make this world a civilized place - a world filled with people who are true
humans, Children of Adam, as the Torah says: "And fill the earth" (Genesis 1:28) . The world is a
civilized place only when filled with true Children of Adam, people who possess awareness and
knowledge of God. A world without people who know God is a world of desolation and emptiness.
Those who do not have this awareness cannot be called Children of Adam.

Just as it is a commandment to have children in order for the world to survive, so it is a
commandment to instill awareness and knowledge of God in our children and anyone else whom
we are in a position to influence. Teaching our children to know God is the essence of the
commandment to have children. It is vital to ensure that future generations will be true Children of
Adam and not wild animals who merely look human on the outside. Those who have no knowledge
of God and do not feel His power cannot be called Children of Adam, because the ability to know
God is the defining feature of the Children of Adam.

Everyone should make an effort to bring his friends to greater knowledge of God and fear of
heaven, thereby making his friends his "students" . This way, when his days are complete and his
time comes to leave the world, he will be clothed in the words he spoke to his friends, and it will
be as if he himself is literally still in this world.

Likutey Moharan II, 7

* * *

Direct and Returning Light

When a person discusses devotion with a friend, it creates "direct light" and "returning light" .

Sometimes the "returning light" comes before the "direct light" , as when the recipient has certain
mental limits that prevent him from accepting his friend's words. Even before the recipient receives
the "direct light" from his friend, the friend already receives "returning light" .

Even if the intended recipient cannot accept his friend's words, the friend can be inspired by what
he himself is saying. When his words come forth from his mouth and strike the other, the light is
reflected back to the speaker just as when something thrown against a wall bounces back to the
thrower. In the same way, when you speak to a friend, you can be inspired by the words that
bounce off him even though he himself is unable to accept them.

Had you told yourself exactly the same thing, it may be that you would not have been aroused in
the least. But by addressing them to your friend, you yourself are inspired even if he is not, because
your words are reflected back to you from your friend.

Likutey Moharan I, 184

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2. Freedom

Everything we do is ultimately controlled by God, though this is concealed from us by our egos,
which make us think we are separate from and independent of God. We were created like this to
give us free will. This way we are able to turn to God of our own volition and discover for
ourselves that God controls all things, including our own thoughts, feelings and actions.

3. Action

Even though all things in the spiritual and material realms are in God's hands, we are not supposed
to wait for God to do everything. The universe is so arranged that we have freedom of action in
many areas. When we act, whether it be to make a living or to attend to any of our other needs, we
must understand that, while it is up to us to take the initiative and act as if everything is in our
hands, in fact all things ultimately depend upon God. No matter what we feel we ought to do,
whether in our spiritual or material lives, our first step should always be to ask God to guide us and
bless our efforts with success.

4. Reverses

When things appear to turn out badly for us, we have to accept that this is God's will and that
whatever happens is for the best. Even when things go wrong because of something we ourselves
may have thought, said or done, we must accept that this too is from God. Other people are also
free agents, yet everything they do is ultimately controlled by God. If someone insults you or in
some way harms you, know that this has been sent by God as a way to cleanse your soul. If things
go against you, be patient. When you accept everything as God's will, this causes the veil of
concealment to be removed, thus manifesting God's control over all creation.

5. Growth

Your spiritual growth is also under God's control. Even if you feel a desire to grow in a specific
area, as long as you are not ready to achieve what you want, things will be arranged in such a way as
to hold you back - either by external obstacles or through some idea that becomes implanted in
your own mind to prevent you from reaching your goal. This does not mean that God is rejecting
you. He knows that in the long run this will be the best way to bring you to the ultimate good. The
purpose of holding you back is to prompt you to cry out and pray to God to help you rise from
your current level and bring you nearer your true goal.

6. Revelation and guidance

Since God is everywhere and in all things, everything we experience is actually a communication
from God. This includes our inner thoughts and feelings. Even negative thoughts and feelings -
heaviness, lack of enthusiasm, depression and the like - are from God. Everything you hear, see, or
experience in life, whether from people you know or from complete strangers, is a call to you from
God. Even unclear or contradictory messages are sent with a purpose: to give us choice and free
will in order to test us. The way to sort out which messages we should follow and which we should
ignore is by evaluating everything in the light of Torah teaching.

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7. The Wise Man-Tzaddik

Faith in God includes faith in the Tzaddikim whom God sends into this world to teach us how to
transcend our lowly state and fulfil l our spiritual destiny. Not only must we accept that God gave
the Torah to Moses on Sinai; we must also acknowledge that God sends wise men in every age to
lift us out of our exile and teach us the true path in life.

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