This week falls the 10th of Teveth, the yahrtzeit of our cherished rabbi and teacher, Rebbe Natan of Breslev, in whose virtue we have the teachings of Rebbe Nachman. Rebbe Natan was the prime disciple who not only wrote down Rebbe Nachman's teachings, but greatly expanded them and elaborated on them for the benefit of subsequent generations.
We don't stop and think how much we live and breathe Rebbe Nachman's and Rebbe Natan's teachings, which permeate every phase of our lives. For a Breslever, talking to Hashem is second nature. Everything we have in holiness, in emuna and in Torah are all the fruit of Rebbe Nachman's teachings as we received them from Rebbe Natan.
Above image: View from Rebbe Natan's holy gravesite in Breslev, Ukraine, overlooking the Bugg River
Let's take one small (but prodigious) concept that we'd be well-advised to learn from Rebbe Nachman and Rebbe Natan, which we glean from the following anecdote:
Rebbe Natan was a giant in Torah from a young age. By age 22, he was an ordained rabbi and dayan (religious court judge), familiar with every nook and cranny of Talmud and religious law. His father-in-law, the famed Rabbi David Tzvi Auerbach, was the head rabbi of Podolia - central Ukraine - whose jurisdiction included over eighty five cities, towns and villages. Rabbi David Tzvi was getting older, so he wanted to relieve himself of the burden of 22 towns and villages by making his son-in-law, Rebbe Natan, their head rabbi and dayan.
A few months earlier, Rebbe Natan, after feeling for a long time that something was lacking in his spiritual life and after years of searching for a spiritual guide, met the true tzaddik that would become his mentor, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev.
Rebbe Natan drank Rebbe Nachman's teachings like a thirsty person in the desert that had not anything to drink for a week. He planned to devote himself to his new Rebbe and spiritual guide, writing down his teachings, implementing them, and spreading them to others. But then, all of a sudden, he received the offer of a wonderful rabbinate and rabbinical career from his father-in-law. What should he do?
Agonized from indecision, Rebbe Natan went to Rebbe Nachman for advice. Rebbe Nachman said, "Sure, Natan, your father-in-law is right; you'll make a wonderful rabbi and dayan!"
Rebbe Natan was dumbfounded. He was sure that Rebbe Nachman would tell him not to take the position, which would consume all his energy and leave him literally no time for personal prayer and serving Hashem the way he wanted to. He asked Rebbe Nachman, "Rebbe, is it really true that I should be the rabbi of twenty two towns and villages?"
Rebbe Nachman replied, "Of course it's true! But yet again, there's the truth and there's the core truth. Which do you want?"
Rebbe Natan stammered for a moment, pondering the depth of Rebbe Nachman's profound words. “Of course, I want the core truth, the absolute truth!”
“In that case, Natan,” smiled Rebbe Nachman, “You should pass on the rabbinic post. Others can do that. You should stay with me – you'll do great things.” And he did do great things that we all owe him a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.
Rebbe Nachman is in effect teaching us that there's a general truth. But within that general truth, there is a core truth.
Many of us do the right thing but not always for the right reason. It's true that learning Torah all day long is a lofty endeavor. But maybe a certain person won't accomplish his mission in life if he sits and learns all day. For one person, the core truth might be learning half a day and teaching handicapped children the other half a day. The examples are limitless. But the principle is that one must cling steadfastly to his or her own core truth in order to accomplish his or her mission in life.
Finding one's core truth, emet l'amita as Rebbe Nachman called it, is not always easy. Even the great Rebbe Natan needed help. And if he needed help, we certainly must have a rabbi and spiritual guide who can help us find our own core truth. In Rebbe Natan's merit, may we all succeed!
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