Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
(1772 - 1810)
The great-grandson of the Baal
Shem Tov, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (sometimes called Bratzlav, Breslau
or Bratislava) was one of the most creative, influential and profound
of the Chassidic masters
and the founder of the Breslover
Chasidic sect. Breslov is a town in the Ukraine where Rabbi Nachman spent the end of his life, but some say the name
Breslov comes from the Hebrew bris lev, meaning "covenant
of the heart."
From his youth, he followed a path of asceticism and prayer, though he warned
his followers not to abuse themselves physically. He emphasized living
life with joy and happiness. One of his best-known sayings is, "It
is a great mitzvah to
He was a passionate individual, given to intense swings
of emotions. These he put toward the service of G-d,
and spoke often of how to find G-d even in the low states of mind, and
how to serve Him during the emotional highs.
Central to his teachings is the role of the tzaddik, who has the power to descend into the darkness
to redeem lost souls; the path of prayer as the main expression of religious
life. His main work is Likutey Moharan, composed partly by himself,
partly by his chief disciple, Rabbi Nossan Sternhartz. The book is a
collection of sermons delivered by Rabbi Nachman, given mostly on the
holidays when his Chassidim gathered. The lessons are long and complex,
masterfully drawing on the entire body of Talmud, Midrashic and Kabbalistic literature.
Ideas are connected by a poetic and intuitive grasp of the texts. In
addition, Rabbi Nachman wrote thirteen Tales — mythical
stories of kings and wizards based upon Kabbalistic thought and capturing
the essence of Rabbi Nachmans teachings. These tales were known
to have influenced later authors such as Franz Kafka.
Rabbi Nachman died of Tuberculoses at the age of 38.
Despite the fact that there was never another Breslov Rebbe
to fill his place, the mystery and depth of his teachings continue to
attract students today, and Breslover Chassidism is one of the largest
and most vibrant of Chassidic groups.
Union; Judaism 101