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Nachman of Breslov

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Nachman of Breslov
TitleBreslover Rebbe
Nachman of Breslov

4 April 1772 (Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5532)
Died16 October 1810 (18 Tishrei 5571)
SpouseSashia, daughter of Rabbi Ephraim of Ossatin[1]
daughter (died in infancy)
Shlomo Ephraim
  • Simcha (father)
  • Feiga (mother)
Main workLikutey Moharan

Nachman of Breslov (Hebrew: רַבִּי נַחְמָן מִבְּרֶסְלֶב Rabbī Naḥmān mīBreslev), also known as Rabbi Nachman of Breslev, Rabbi Nachman miBreslev, Reb Nachman of Bratslav and Reb Nachman Breslover (Yiddish: רבי נחמן ברעסלאווער Rebe Nakhmen Breslover), and Nachman from Uman (April 4, 1772 – October 16, 1810), was the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement. He was particularly known for his creative parables,[2] which drew on Eastern European folktales to infuse his teaching by creating deeply kabbalistic and yet universally accessible remedies, advices and parabolic stories, through which anyone can project himself into and draw spiritual and practical guidance. He emphasized finding and expressing a person's uniqueness, while steering away from despair in a world he saw as becoming more and more standardized. Through Martin Buber's translation, his teaching is thought to have influenced some 20th century writers, including Franz Kafka.[3]

Nachman, a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, revived the Hasidic movement by combining the Kabbalah with in-depth Torah scholarship. He attracted thousands of followers during his lifetime, and his influence continues today through many Hasidic movements such as Breslov Hasidism.[4] Nachman's religious philosophy revolved around closeness to God and speaking to God in normal conversation "as you would with a best friend". The concept of hitbodedut is central to his thinking.[4]



Nachman was born on April 4, 1772 (Rosh Chodesh of Nisan) into a family of central figures in Hasidism in the town which was then Międzybóż in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, now Medzhybizh in Ukraine. At first, he refused his role of carrying on his familial tradition of being leaders of Hasidism. [5]

Nachman's mother, Feiga, was the daughter of Adil (also spelled Udel), daughter of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidic Judaism. His father Simcha was the son of one of the Baal Shem Tov's disciples after whom Nachman was named, Nachman of Horodenka (Gorodenka) who was a seventh-generation lineal descendant of Judah Loew ben Bezalel.[6] Nachman had two brothers, Yechiel Zvi and Yisroel Mes, and a sister, Perel.[7]

At the age of 13, he married Sashia, daughter of Rabbi Ephraim, and moved to his father-in-law's home in Ossatin (Staraya Osota today). He acquired his first disciple on his wedding day, a young man named Shimon who was several years older than he was.[8]

In 1798–1799, he traveled from the territory of Ukraine to the land of Israel, where he visited Hasidim living in Haifa, Tiberias, and Safed. He arrived in Galilee right in the middle of Napoleon’s battle with the Turks. This journey, which he saw as a private rite of passage, was often looked back on as a source of inspiration for him. In Tiberias, his influence brought about a reconciliation between the Lithuanian and Volhynian Hasidim.[9] On his return from Israel, he was ready to assume the mantle of leadership in Hasidism, which he did in a highly selective manner. In his early years of leadership, he made each disciple confess all of his sins to him, as well as participate in a daily hour-long conversation with God. [10]

Shortly before Rosh Hashana 1800, Nachman moved to the town of Zlatopol.

Moves to Bratslav and Uman

River in Bratslav

In 1802, Nachman moved to the town of Bratslav, also known as "Breslov" and "Bracław".[11]

His move to the town of Breslov brought him into contact with Nathan Sternhartz, a 22-year-old Torah scholar in the nearby town of Nemirov.[citation needed] Sternhartz recorded all of Nachman's formal lessons as well as transcribing his work Likutey Moharan.[citation needed] After Nachman's death, Sternhartz recorded informal conversations he and other disciples had had with Nachman, whose works he published with his own commentaries on them.[citation needed]

Nachman and his wife Sashia had six daughters and two sons. Two daughters died in infancy and the two sons both died within a year and a half of their births. Their surviving children were Adil, Sarah,[12] Miriam, and Chayah.[13] Sashia died of tuberculosis in June 1807,[14] and the next month Nachman became engaged to a woman named Trachtenberg. Right after the engagement, Nachman contracted tuberculosis.[15]

For every question there is an answer... for every answer there is a question

In 1810, after a fire destroyed Nachman's home, a group of maskilim (Jews belonging to the Jewish enlightenment movement) living in Uman invited him to live in their town, and provided housing for him as his illness worsened.[16]

Nachman died of tuberculosis at the age of 38 in the early autumn on the fourth day of Sukkot 1810, and was buried in the local Jewish cemetery.[17]

Grave of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Based on the frequent fluctuations and changes in Nachman's mood, scholars have suggested that he suffered from severe depression[18][19] and from bipolar disorder.[20][21]

Pilgrimage tradition

The synagogue where Nachman is buried

After Nachman's death Sternhartz instituted an annual pilgrimage to his gravesite on Rosh Hashana, called the Rosh Hashana kibbutz, which drew thousands of Hasidim until 1917, when the October Revolution forced it to continue clandestinely. Only a dozen or so Hasidim risked making the annual pilgrimage during the Communist era. During Perestroika in the Soviet Union in 1989, the gates were reopened. In 2008, approximately 25,000 people from all over the world participated in this annual pilgrimage.[22]



Nachman rejected the idea of hereditary Hasidic dynasties, and taught that each Hasid must "search for the tzaddik ('saintly/righteous person')" for himself—and within himself. He believed that every Jew has the potential to become a tzaddik.[23] He emphasized that a tzaddik should magnify the blessings on the community through his mitzvot. However, the tzaddik cannot "absolve" a Hasid of his sins, and the Hasid should pray only to God, not to the rebbe. The purpose of confiding in another human being is to unburden the soul as part of the process of repentance and healing.

In his early life, he stressed the practice of fasting and self-castigation as the most effective means of repentance. In later years, however, he abandoned these severe ascetisms because he felt they may lead to depression and sadness. He told his followers not to be "fanatics". Rather, they should choose one personal mitzvah to be very strict about, and do the others with the normal amount of care.[24]

He encouraged his disciples to take every opportunity to increase holiness in themselves and their daily activities. For example, by marrying and living with one's spouse according to Torah law, one elevates sexual intimacy to an act bespeaking honor and respect to the God-given powers of procreation. He urged everyone to seek out their own and others' good points in order to approach life in a state of continual happiness. He stressed living with faith, simplicity, and joy. He encouraged his followers to clap, sing and dance during or after their prayers to bring them to a closer relationship with God. He taught that his followers should spend an hour alone each day, talking aloud to God in his or her own words, as if "talking to a good friend". This is in addition to the prayers in the siddur. Breslover Hasidim still follow this practice today, which is known as hitbodedut (literally, "to make oneself be in solitude"). Nachman taught that the best place to do hitbodedut was in a field or forest, among the natural works of God's creation. He emphasized the importance of music for spiritual development and religious practice.[25]



In 1816, Joseph Perl wrote a denunciation of Hasidic mysticism and beliefs, in which he criticized many of the writings of Nachman, who had died six years earlier. Austrian imperial censors blocked publication of Perl's treatise, fearing that it would foment unrest among the empire's Jewish subjects.[citation needed]

During his lifetime Nachman also encountered opposition within the Hasidic movement itself from people who questioned his new approach. Eventually nearly the entire Jewish population of Zlatipol opposed Nachman, leading him to relocate to Breslov in 1802.[26]

Nachman believed at one time that he was the Messiah,[27] and should be recognized as such.[28]

Published works


Reb Nachman's Torah lessons and stories were published and disseminated mainly after his death by his disciple, Reb Noson:

  • Likutey Moharan ("Collected Teachings of Our Teacher, Rabbi Nachman") (vol. i., Ostrog, 1808; vol. ii., Moghilev, 1811; vol. iii., Ostrog, 1815)—Hasidic interpretations of the Tanakh, Talmud and Midrashim, Zohar, etc. This work has been completely translated to English and annotated in fifteen volumes by Rabbis Chaim Kramer and Moshe Mykoff of the Breslov Research Institute.
  • Sefer HaMidot[29] (The Aleph-Bet Book) (Moghilev, 1821)—a collection of practical advice gleaned from Torah sources, presented as epigrams or maxims and arranged alphabetically by topic.[30]
  • Tikkun HaKlali ("General Remedy")—Reb Nachman's order of ten Psalms to be recited for various problems, plus commentary by Reb Noson. Published as a separate book in 1821.
  • Sippurei Ma'asiyot (Tales of Rabbi Nachman or Rabbi Nachman's Stories) (n.p., 1816)—13 story tales in Yiddish and then translated in to Hebrew and that are filled with deep mystical secrets. The longest of these tales is The Seven Beggars,[31] which contains many kabbalistic themes and hidden allusions. Several fragmentary stories are also included in Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's translation of the complete tales, Rabbi Nachman's Stories.
  • Sichot HaRan ("Talks of Rabbi Nachman"): Compilation of the central teachings of Rabbi Nachman, comprising 308 "sichas", mainly presented as anecdotes, concerning Hassidic philosophy and the Service of God, and providing background and remarks re earlier teachings. [32] Originally an appendix to Sippurei Ma'asiyot.

Another mysterious document that Reb Nachman dictated to Reb Noson is the Megillat Setarim ("Hidden Scroll"), which was written in a cryptic combination of Hebrew initials and brief phrases. Prof. Zvi Mark has researched and attempted to decipher this document, based on disclosures from prominent members of the Breslov community. His findings have been published in Hebrew and in English translation, along with facsimiles of discrepant manuscript copies.

Destroyed writings


Nachman also wrote but then destroyed Sefer HaGanuz ("The Hidden Book") and the Sefer HaNisraf ("The Burned Book"). He told his disciples that these volumes contained deep mystical insights that few would be able to comprehend. He dictated the Sefer HaNisraf to Sternhartz, who said that he did not understand it at all and that "What I do remember is that it spoke about the greatness of the mitzvah of hospitality and preparing the bed for a guest".[33] Nachman never showed the Sefer HaGanuz to anyone, and in 1808 he burned all the copies of the Sefer HaGanuz and the Sefer Ha-nisraf.[34]

Nachman first ordered the two manuscripts of the book Sefer HaNisraf to be destroyed in a bargain for his life during a phase of his tuberculosis which preceded his death by two years.[35] He believed that the illness was a "punishment from the upper-world--for writing a book".[36]

Two years later, from his deathbed, he ordered a chest full of his writings to be burnt. On the evening of the last day of his life, Rabbi Nachman gave his disciples the key to a chest. "As soon as I am dead," he told them, "while my body is still lying here on the floor, you are to take all the writings you find in the chest and burn them. And be sure to fulfill my request."[35]


  • "It is a great mitzvah to be happy always."[37]
  • "If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix."[38]
  • "Gevalt!!! Never give up hope! There is no despair."[39]
  • "When a person realizes that he is on a very low level and far from God, this itself is a reason to feel encouraged. Before this, he was so far from God that he did not even know it. Now at least he knows it, and this itself is a sign that he is drawing closer."[40]
  • "Worldly desires are like sunbeams in a dark room. They seem solid until you try to grasp one."[41]
  • "It is very good to pour out your heart to God as you would to a true, good friend."[42]
  • "You are never given an obstacle you cannot overcome."[43]
  • "The essence of wisdom is to realize how far from wisdom you are."[44]
  • "All the sages of Israel are in my estimation like a garlic peel."[45]
  • "Wherever I go, I'm always going to Israel."[46]
  • "Know that [when] a person needs to cross a very, very narrow bridge, the general principle and main point is not to make oneself at all terrified."[47]

See also



  1. ^ His first wedding had to be at thirtheen as was the custom in the period he lived
  2. ^ Solomon Grayzel, A History of the Jews, The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1968, p. 533: "Nachman of Bratslav, possessed a remarkable gift for telling stories and parables which became the spiritual heritage of all Israel"
  3. ^ https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Nahman_of_Bratslav: "to help redeem the fantasy life of his disciples (and himself) from domination by evil, Naḥman in 1806 began to tell fantastic stories, derived from East European folkloric motifs but interwoven with intimations of kabbalistic symbols and suffused with an air of mythic reality. The most important of these stories were published after his death as Sipure ma‘asiyot (1815), in a Hebrew and Yiddish bilingual edition. Historians of modern Jewish literature in both languages have regarded them as important literary compositions... Through Martin Buber’s adaptive translation (1906), it is likely that they influenced Franz Kafka and other modern writers."
  4. ^ a b Shragai, Nadav (3 November 2008). "Singing a different tune". Haaretz. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  5. ^ Green- Nahman of Bratslav- Encyclopedia of Religion
  6. ^ רבי נחמן מהורודנקא [Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka]. mytzadik.com (in Hebrew). Retrieved Aug 16, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Until the Mashiach, p. 2.
  8. ^ Until the Mashiach, p. 7.
  9. ^ Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom: His Pilgrimage to the Land of Israel #19.
  10. ^ Green- Nahman of Bratslav- Encyclopedia of Religion
  11. ^ Tzaddik #12.
  12. ^ In August 2021 Sarah's grave was descecrated with pig Bones (Israel National News)
  13. ^ Until the Mashiach, pp. 330-341.
  14. ^ Until the Mashiach, p. 140.
  15. ^ Until the Mashiach, pp. 143-144.
  16. ^ Tzaddik #114.
  17. ^ Until the Mashiach, pp. 204-206.
  18. ^ Arthur Green, בעל הייסורים: פרשת חייו של ר' נחמן מברסלב, Afekim Library, Am Oved Publishing, pp. 79, 91 , 163–164, 172, 175.
  19. ^ Joseph G. Weiss, מחקרים בחסידות ברסלב, Bialik Institute, Jerusalem, p. 164
  20. ^ H. Daum and A. Hartman, נפש יהודית, Israel 2017, pp. 235-236
  21. ^ Ada Rapoport-Albert's article "קטנות, פשיטות ואיני יודע" which appears in her book "חסידים ושבתאים, אנשים ונשים", page 122
  22. ^ "Hasidic Jews celebrate holiday in Uman" Archived 2010-05-14 at the Wayback Machine Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 2008-10-02. Retrieved 31 July 2009.
  23. ^ Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #26.
  24. ^ Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #235.
  25. ^ AZAMRA! Likutey Moharan I, 282 [1] Archived 2013-10-01 at the Wayback Machine. Cf. Nigun.
  26. ^ Kaplan, Aryeh. Until The Mashiach; Rabbi Nachman's Biography: An Annotated Chronology. (Breslov Research Institute, no location listed, 1985), pp. 60-62. (Kaplan cites Chayay Moharan 27b #11 and #114.) The same story is referenced also in Kramer, Chaim. Through Fire and Water: The Life of Reb Noson of Breslov. (Breslov Research Institute, New York/Jerusalem, no date listed), pp. 31-32.
  27. ^ Paul Kriwaczek, Yiddish Civilisation, Vintage Books, (a division of Random House), © 2005, p. 263: "Nachman of Bratslav, was for a time convinced that he had been chosen as the Messiah."
  28. ^ https://www.haaretz.com/2007-04-27/ty-article/messiah-in-all-but-name/0000017f-f3f6-d487-abff-f3fe8c610000: "Rabbi Nachman's personal messianic pretensions emerge loud and clear from various remarks attributed to him in his lifetime... Rabbi Nachman regarded himself as having all the necessary qualifications to be the Messiah. What kept him from fulfilling his messianic potential was a lack of recognition."
  29. ^ Rabí Najmán de Breslov EL LIBRO DEL ALEF-BET Sefer HaMidot (El Libro de los Atributos) - Rabí Najmán de Breslov. El Libro del Alef-Bet (Sefer HaMidot - Versión Completa): Aforismos del Rebe Najmán sobre la Vida Espiritual Breslov Research Institute, Jerusalem/New York 2017
  30. ^ Sears, Dovid (2010). Breslov Pirkey Avot. Jerusalem:Breslov Research Institute. ISBN 978-1-928822-16-5. p. 36.
  31. ^ "The Story of the Seven Beggars, by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov". Yeshivat Shuvu Bonim. 2000. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  32. ^ See the Hebrew article: He: שיחות_הר"ן
  33. ^ Siach Sarfei Kodesh I-699, quoted in Through Fire and Water, p. 144.
  34. ^ Tzaddik #66.
  35. ^ a b Greenbaum, Avraham (1987). Tzaddik. New York/Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute. p. 77. ISBN 0-930213-17-3.
  36. ^ Kamenetz, Rodger (2010). Burnt Books. New York: Nextbook/Schocken. p. 79. ISBN 9780805242577.
  37. ^ Likutey Moharan II, 24.
  38. ^ Likutey Moharan II, 112.
  39. ^ "Likutey Moharan" II, 78.
  40. ^ "Likutei Moharan" II, 68.
  41. ^ Sichot HaRan #6.
  42. ^ Kochavey Ohr, Anshey Moharan #4.
  43. ^ Likutey Moharan II, 46.
  44. ^ Likutey Moharan II, 83.
  45. ^ Chayey Moharan 290.
  46. ^ Spero, Ken (26 January 2002). "Crash Course in Jewish History #62: Return to the Land of Israel". aish.com. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  47. ^ Likutey Moharan Part II, 48:2. This saying, adapted as "The whole world is a narrow bridge, but the main thing is not to be at all afraid", has been set to music in Hebrew as the song "Kol Ha'Olam Kulo" (MIDI: [2]) (MP3: [3] Archived 2006-08-25 at the Wayback Machine)


  • Green, Arthur (1992). Tormented Master: The Life and Spiritual Quest of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav. Jewish Lights Publishing. ISBN 1-879045-11-7
  • Greenbaum, Avraham (1987). Tzaddik: A Portrait of Rabbi Nachman. Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute. ISBN 0-930213-17-3
  • Kaplan, Aryeh (1973). Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom. Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute.
  • Kaplan, Aryeh (2005). The Seven Beggars: & Other Kabbalistic Tales of Reb Nachman of Breslov (Nahman, Nachman). Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publications for the Breslov Research Institute. ISBN 1-58023-250-7
  • Kaplan, Aryeh (1985). Until the Mashiach: The Life of Rabbi Nachman. Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute.
  • Kramer, Chaim (1989). Crossing the Narrow Bridge. Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute. ISBN 0-930213-40-8
  • Kramer, Chaim (1992). Through Fire and Water: The Life of Reb Noson of Breslov. Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute. ISBN 0-930213-44-0.
  • Levine, Rabbi Menachem Article on Aish: https://aish.com/uman-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-city-of-souls/
  • Sears, Dovid (2010). Breslov Pirkey Avot. Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute. ISBN 978-1-928822-16-5.
  • Mykoff, Moshe (2003). 7th Heaven. Woodstock: Jewish Lights Publishing, with the Breslov Research Institute. ISBN 1-58023-175-6

About Rabbi Nachman